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An Old Bike to You, a Better Life for Others

While earning his Eagle Scout badge, which is the highest rank of the Boy Scouts, Tristan Osterhues, 16, helped the needy. He stood out in the cold on Dundee Road in Palatine, Illinois, with his friends and family, collecting donations for Working Bikes and loading the rusty old bikes onto a pick-up truck.

Working Bikes is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1999. The group takes used bikes, repairs them, and ships them to developing countries.

“We ship to organizations in Africa and South and Central America because many people in those regions have no way to get around except to walk,” said Marie Akerman, the Communications and Development Manager at Working Bikes. “Many walk hours a day to collect water, go to school, or get to work.”



The shipped bikes are used as a source of power, to move cargo, and, of course, as transportation. The bikes can have a big impact in a poor community.

“I was looking through some pamphlets that I have from previous projects to look for what I wanted to do,” Tristan said when asked why he decided to help Working Bikes. “I came across the Working Bikes pamphlet, and I thought it would be a really great idea to help people around the world get a mode of transportation.”

You might think that the worst thing that can happen to you is a sibling constantly annoying you, or getting a B on your test. But other families around the world have it worse. They might be worrying about where they’re going to get their next meal, or if they’re even going to have dinner. Sometimes, work is too far away to make money. Working Bikes can change that. By giving bikes to people in need, the organization significantly makes their lives better.

“Sometimes bike frames are cracked or bent beyond repair," Akerman said. "We can't fix them, but we can still use them. Our volunteers disassemble those bikes so we can use their parts to repair other bikes.”



Like Tristan, you can hold a drive for Working Bikes. First, get permission from your school or community center. Then call or email Working Bikes to let them know that you would like to do a bike drive. They'll help you choose a date and location. They recommend Saturdays and using a school or community center parking lot.

Once you are ready to hold a drive, spread the word! Make posters, write to your local newspaper, and tell your friends, family, and neighbors.

Or, instead of holding a drive, you can do what Sam Canero of Chicago did. When it was time for him to part with his beloved bike of 13 years, Sam dropped it off at Working Bikes. The next time you have an old bike you're ready to discard, think about donating it to help another person who could use it.

Photo courtesy of the author