Richard Kronk places a donated bicycle in a line of bikes collected in the Bikes for Humanity collection drive at Merecroft Village Saturday.

Giving the gift of mobility

Dozens of bicycles that once plied the streets and trails of Vancouver Island will get their next workout in the heart of Africa

Dozens of bicycles that once plied the streets and trails of Vancouver Island will get their next workout in the heart of Africa, thanks to a joint effort by volunteers in Campbell River and the Comox Valley.

Comox Valley Bikes for Humanity set up its balloon-festooned canopies at Merecroft Village Saturday to collect donated bikes that will eventually be shipped to Uganda.

In the first three hours of the drive, more than 40 bikes had been dropped off as the group was well on its way to meeting its goal of 50 bicycles for the event.

“We’re seeing some amazing quality. The people here have been really kind,” said Laurel Cronk of Campbell River, who, with her husband Richard, operates Island Joy Rides, a bike touring business.

The Cronks joined forces with Comox Valley Bikes for Humanity, which began its collection drive last year with the ultimate aim of gathering 500 cycles. With Saturday’s donations, it is now at about 300 bikes, with another collection drive set for this Saturday at Comox Moving and Storage in the valley. Bikes for Humanity is a global initiative with 50 chapters in eight countries. Bikes donated to the program are packed into a shipping container and sent to remote regions of the world where there is both a need and a local organization to take over once the bikes arrive.

The trailer itself remains, and is converted into a “Bicycle Empowerment Centre”, where jobs in bicycle sales and repair give locals an opportunity for income while the bikes fill a critical transportation need.

Since beginning in Canada in 2005, Bikes for Humanity has shipped more than 100,000 bicycles to 10 developing countries, where a total of 125 empowerment centres have been established.

“We’re accustomed to riding bikes for recreation here,” said Brian Sebryk, who founded the Comox Valley chapter with help from Dave and Jane Hay. “There, it’s used for work. Forty per cent of the bikes there are used by health-care workers. Another 20 per cent are used by teachers and students.

“The gift of mobility is making a difference in their lives.”

The volunteers acknowledge it may take another year to reach the 500-bicycle mark needed to make the shipment economically viable. Between the purchase of the trailer and the international shipping costs, Bikes for Humanity will have to raise approximately $20,000 for this shipment.

To donate to Bikes for Humanity, visit www.b4h-comoxvalley.org. Donate directly or get more information by calling 250-923-2929.