You know the feeling – the cool, refreshing light breeze, the exhilaration of self-powered speed, and the free choice of where and when to go. Welcome to the world of the cyclist!
For many of us, the joy and elation of cycling (and some not terribly fast) is recreational, sometimes a deliberate commuter choice. Yes, there are those whose chosen sport is cycling, and there are others still who use cycling as a goal-setting, fitness or wellness tool.
But for Bicycles For Humanity, we look to much of the remaining sector of people around the world where bicycles are an essential means of transport, a household vehicle, and for many the difference between being empowered and being left behind.
The B4H story is now well-known. Lesser known is that the many chapters around the world retain the ethos of being 100% volunteer. In Melbourne, we are no different to that, surprising many that we neither employ people in the organisation, nor commit to the overheads of maintaining an office.
Such is the goodwill of B4H, that volunteers have little concerns about how we work.
Naturally, we maintain an open presence whereby donors can literally follow the process of a single bicycle from donation, through to preparation for packing, loading into the shipping container, and if they wish, greet the shipping container at its destination and meet the people who help bring these bicycles into a community-based enterprise for the greater social good.
That’s the sum of our work, nothing more.
So 15 shipping containers later, each with over 400 bicycles inside, have been diligently packed by volunteers since our beginnings in 2009. That’s not including quite a number that we also distributed on an ad hoc basis both locally in Victoria and in other places around the world to where we felt there was a need.
In true spirit, B4H in Melbourne doesn’t do much else without it being closely aligned to these activities.
Yes, we welcome organisations and other volunteers to help us in packing days, to help to distribute materials, to arrange for the collection of donated bicycles, and to help fundraise in many different ways.
But B4H doesn’t hold many non-bicycle actions.
So when it came to developing a fundraiser, it made perfect sense to ask people to raise funds by cycling. Hence, the concept behind Cycle For Humanity was born.
Come to think of it, ours may be one of the few bicycling events that actually has anything to do with our main purpose – sending secondhand bicycles to disadvantaged communities.
Back on track, we were relieved that in Year 1 (2015) we actually mounted an event, and in 2016, absolutely thrilled that we gained a terrific public response to Cycle For Humanity.
Even with a modest number of Riders, we achieved wonderful fundraising and participation goals, reached across sectors, community demographics, age groups, abilities, location and time zones. We were amazed at the efforts of some of the Riders in their fundraising (this was a challenge within a challenge, no doubt), and with people creating initiatives that involved their work place or community organisation.
Best still, is the enthusiasm shown by participants and B4H volunteers alike, that 2017 is shaping up to be considerably bigger. We’ve already had some feedback by participants and supporters, that we are ourselves invigorated by the thoughts around what we could do in 2017 and beyond.
We’ve had suggestions about teams and schools, and multi-faith engagement, multicultural group engagement, social groups, service groups, councils and companies. And of course, Cycle For Humanity is a virtual event – Riders could conceivably be in Melbourne, Mildura or Montreal, Mumbai, Manchester, Moscow or Michigan. And yet, we could all celebrate together.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by this level of enthusiasm. Maybe it is the generosity of people we know in Melbourne, or Victoria, or Australia. Or maybe it is an activity such as this, that brings out that common trait of everyone – humanity.
Gary Chan is the Business Development Manager for Community Homestay Tourism Network and has partnered with various corporations and non-government institutions, including Bicycles for Humanity, Aboriginal Exhibitions, Renewable Energy Solutions Africa and UN Volunteering. His networks span across different countries including Cambodia, Ghana, Cameroon, Nepal, Kenya, Uganda and Somalia.