Every child needs a bicycle and a non-profit group is making sure that’s possible for children living in poverty.
Bicycles for Humanity, which was nominated this year for an Alberta Emerald Award, delivers hundreds of bikes each year to poor communities around the world.
“The reward of seeing the bikes go to kids who can’t even afford a pair of shoes or who live in a shack is amazing,” volunteer Karen Pansky said. “Just knowing we changed so many lives and helped a developing country with the power of mobility is incredibly rewarding.”
Pansky’s husband Robert was born and raised in Fort Macleod and his parents Colleen and Mickey Pansky have lived here their entire lives.
A Calgary resident, Karen Pansky started volunteering with Bicycles For Humanity a year ago after a life-changing trip to Mexico.
While in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, Pansky befriended a local family.
“I was able to go and see behind the scenes how they really live,” Pansky said. “It was amazing how impoverished this community was. Once away from the tourists and hotels, I realized I needed to do more to help this school and community.”
Pansky and her sister returned to Zihuatanejo, bringing with them 200 pounds of supplies for the local school.
While helping in that way was rewarding, Pansky knew she could do more and researched humanitarian aid organizations.
Pansky discovered Bicycles For Humanity, a volunteer run organization that collects used bicycles, repairs and get them road ready, and delivers them to people living in poverty in Mexico and Uganda.
Since Bicycles For Humanity was formed in 2005, the world-wide organization has delivered more than 50,000 bikes to people living in poverty.
“I realized a bike can do so much,” Pansky said. “The power of mobility is incredible. It gets kids to school, connects people, provides them access to health care facilities, employment, markets and so much more.”
Pansky collected bikes with Bicycles For Humanity’s Calgary team over the summer months and organized an event that raised $10,000.
Bicycles For Humanity hired a logistics team and shipped 594 bikes, 260 backpacks, 300 pounds of school supplies and 40 soccer balls to Zihuatanejo.
The items were donated to Octavio Paz school in the colony of Buenos Aires.
“I was able to secure a team of volunteers there to distribute the bikes,” Pansky said of the shipment that arrived on April 15. “The team lead was Ulises Rivera Romero who did an outstanding job.”
Bicycles for Humanity also sent 350 bikes to Uganda on May 24.
Karen Pansky urges Fort Macleod and district residents to help by dropping bicycles at the BikeBike Shop at 1501 17th Ave. S.W. or the Tangerine Cafe at 600 Sixth Ave. S.W. in Calgary.
People can also make a cash donation via the Web site www.b4h-calgary.org.