Recycling Bicycles and sewing machines
Submitted by Dr. D. Michael Hart
The Rotary Club of Westfield recently hosted Alan Shultz, who is the President of Pedals for Progress. This organization collects and ships used bikes and sewing machines to impoverished nations.
The Rotary Club became involved with Pedals for Progress (P4P) in 2007, with Warren Rorden as chair. We collect used bicycles and sewing machines every fall. Bicycles do not create air pollution, do not use fossil fuels, create jobs (bike repair shops), increase productivity of the person riding the bike, helps kids get to school, and increase the country’s GDP. Americans purchase 50 million new bikes every year, but dispose of 20 million perfectly good bikes in the landfills.
The Rotary Club of Westfield has been collecting used bikes and sewing machines for 26 years, averaging 100 bikes per year. In that time, we have collected approximately 2,600 bikes and many dozens of sewing machines.
Alan Shultz discussed his recent trip to Belize, where he made a new connection with an organization there, named “God Cares Outreach”, which is run by Derek Pitts. Derek has hired 5 kids to sell the bikes. This has created 5 more jobs. The bikes sell for between $20 to $200, depending on the quality and brand. The organization is able to use the profits to help feed the poor in their community. Second, they donate the sewing machines to a woman’s prison. The women can learn a skill while in prison, so when they get out, they can support their families, and become a productive member of society.
The shipping containers filled with bikes cost $9,000 each to ship overseas. Therefore, the Rotary Club asks for a donation of $20 for each bike donated to help pay for shipping. The next collection is planned for the first weekend in October.
Pedals For Progress asks for bikes which are usable. They do not mind fixing flat tires, or broken chains, but if the frame is rusted through, it would not be useful.
The countries these bikes are being sent to include: in Europe: Albania and Kosovo; in central America: Belize and Guatemala; in Asia: Philippines and Thailand; and in Africa: Cameroon; Tanzania; Togo; and Rwanda.
The history of how this program started was that Dave Schweidenback signed up for the Peace Corps and was sent to Ecuador in the late 1970’s. He saw that a carpenter who had a bicycle was making much more money than another carpenter who had to walk and carry his tools everywhere. Having a bike helped him carry his tools, plus he had a wider base of customers, being able to ride to the next village. So, after working a few years back in the US, Dave started P4P in 1992. Since then, they have shipped over 150,000 bikes, which has improved the lives of 150,000 families.
The Rotary Club of Westfield meets the first three Tuesdays of each month for lunch at noon, at Limani Seafood Grill on North Ave. Guests are always welcome. For information check out the website westfieldrotary.com or contact club secretary Dr. D. Michael Hart by email at email@example.com.