It began when Founder and Program Director Joel Uichico, a sports professional and businessman, noticed school children walking by the roadside in the town of Baclayon, on the island of Bohol. He discovered they were travelling long distances over unsafe terrain – walking well over an hour, and up to 7 kilometers per way, everyday – just to get to school.
As expected, this distance affected their grades and attendance, putting them at risk of dropping out and never finishing school. The situation was nothing new. Many older youth in the community had already dropped out and had little hope for a better future.
But despite these odds, the kids continued to make the daily trek to school, and the out-of-school youth were willing to continue their education by participating in the Alternative Learning System (ALS). Joel was inspired to make a difference and thought of a way to help out.
Addressing A Problem
Bikes for the Philippines was established to bring donated, used bicycles to communities in need. Its current programs are focused on helping underpriveleged students get to school easier. Children who come from low-income households, especially from rural areas, often have limited access to education. In the Philippines, poverty remains a critical social problem, with over a quarter of the population falling below the poverty line.
BfP and Friends
Sourcing bikes that could withstand the rough terrain became a challenge. Brand new bikes that suited the purpose would cost far too much, so Joel looked to collecting second-hand bikes instead.
From his initial idea of finding just a few bikes for the children in Bohol, it became something bigger. With the help and encouragement of his cousin Jo Grant in the United States, they connected with Bikes for the World (BfW) and a partnership began. Along with Joel Esguerra and the Baltimore office of Gensler, a global design and architecture firm, the team collected and loaded a 40-foot container full of bikes.
In July 2011, Bikes for the World sent this initial shipment containing more than 500 bikes to the Philippines. The Peacock Garden, a family-owned establishment in Baclayon, funded the freight costs and served as the program’s local headquarters.
En route to Bohol, the shipment made a stop in Manila where they were unloaded into a warehouse provided by Marisun Laurel-Uichico and family. Volunteers, including an extensive network of Filipino cyclists, and members of the Philippine Army, sorted and repaired the bikes.
Meanwhile, using the Poverty Database Management System developed by Dr. Nestor Pestelos, a community development worker with over 30 years experience, the students who were most in need of assistance were identified and interviewed. The students then underwent a training course developed by international award-winning Philippine mountain biker Parabanne “Bans” Mendoza and his wife Athena. They were taught lessons in bike riding techniques, safety, and repair.
In January 2012, under the guidance and leadership of school principal Elvira Jabonillo, the reconditioned bikes were turned over to recipients at Baclayon National High School.
BfP and the Future
The impact of the pilot program and the lessons learned since then have served as the basis for the foundation’s continued efforts.
Jo Grant has since established the US arm of Bikes for the Philippines to spread the word, raise funds, and collect bikes in support of the foundation’s programs.
Bikes for the Philippines continues its mission of helping more communities get where they want to go, one bike at a time.