Long walking distances are seen as one of the reasons why Mexican students drop out of school, but a grassroots initiative has been working towards addressing the problem — by giving kids wheels.
Bicis por México, or Bikes for Mexico, takes old donated bicycles, repairs them and distributes them where needed.
The initiative was launched by Alejandro Díaz Juárez, his wife and two sons who were in the practice of delivery king’s cake, toys and clothing every year on Three Kings Day to a poor village in México state.
In 2014, Díaz won a bicycle in a raffle at work. He and his family decided they would give the bike away through another raffle among children in the community.
Díaz was surprised when 50 children lined up for a ticket. But there was only one winner.
“When we saw 49 kids go away sad, we decided that the following year we would bring them more bicycles,” he told the news website Animal Político.
The project grew almost by itself after the Díaz family launched its first bicycle collection drive the following April 19, World Bicycle Day. The movement was christened Bicis por México and with a Facebook page and a website, they started asking their friends to help them find used bikes.
“What we want is to keep children or teenagers from leaving school because they don’t have a bicycle to get there. There are many communities where it takes children an hour, an hour and a half to reach their schools by walking,” Díaz said.
It’s a factor in school absenteeism and a high drop-out rate. “With a bike the trip is fun and only takes 15 minutes.”
“We’re not only looking to help keep children in school; another goal is to bring them happiness. A bicycle changes the life of any boy or girl,” he added.
Whenever Bicis por México receives a donation, the Díaz family snaps a photo of the bicycle and the donor and shares it online. The move is a small gesture of gratitude but also a promotional strategy. Photos get shared around and raise awareness at the same time about the donation program.
The circle closes when the bicycle is delivered to a child. A second photo is taken, this time with the recipient, the bicycle and a sign thanking the donor.
“It’s very important to us that donors know that the bicycle was actually delivered,” remarked Díaz.
The Bicis por México initiative is a small operation that includes Díaz and his family and a bicycle mechanic. A friend of the family offers one of his trucks to transport the bicycles wherever they’re needed, and a Jalisco-based bicycle assembly plant donates a crate of bike parts every month.
The operation has now distributed 700 bicycles in 11 different villages in the states of México, Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, San Luis Potosí and Morelos, encouraging a lot of happy kids to bike to school — and continue to attend.
To find out more, visit their Facebook page (in Spanish).
Source: Animal Político (sp)