On Saturday, Feb. 28, Bikes 4 Orphans will be hosting its 2nd annual Bike-A-Thon | Hike-A-Thon. The family and pet friendly event will take place at the Glendale Sports Complex from 9 am to 12 pm. Hike or bike at the event and enjoy live music, food and raffle prizes with 100% of the proceeds going to the organization. Learn more about Bikes 4 Orphans from President Shwant Bazikian:
What was the inspiration behind Bikes 4 Orphans?
My brother Sebouh, a freshman at UCLA and avid cyclist, learned about the Machao orphanage in Kenya, where the children walked 2 hours a day barefoot to get to school! He thought bikes would be a simple solution to decrease their commute times. Initially, it was supposed to be only a few bikes but it began to blossom into something much greater.
What is the mission/objective of Bikes 4 Orphans?
Our mission is to provide bikes to as many children in orphanages as possible. Primarily to those who have to walk multiple hours to get to school.
How does having a bike impact the lives of these children?
It’s a truly tremendous impact! Bicycles allow them to get to school faster and safer. Also, bikes encourage them to finish their education quicker because the commute to and from school is easier and more fun. Some use the bike to carry water and goods to and from their orphanage or to find a job, there is no limit to how they can better their lives with something as simple as a bicycle.
Have the children in these orphanages changed your point of view on life in any way?
Yes, of course. It has showed me that these children are full of potential but lack the resources to reach it. We saw firsthand at the Armenia delivery how these children were able to assemble a bike without having seen one. It is truly amazing what these children are capable of with even just the smallest amount of guidance. I like to say that, “Every orphan (human) has an innate ambition to become something better, and bicycles unlock that potential”.
What has surprised you the most since you started Bikes 4 Orphans?
The thing that has surprised us the most is how generous people can be. For example, we had a 10 year old donate his brand new bike when he heard about our project as well as a teenage girl donate all her birthday money because she wanted to help others. Everyone in the world wants to help, its human nature, they are just waiting for a cause that will inspire them.
What are some of the obstacles that prevent you from providing bikes to the children?
One obstacle is determining the legitimacy of an orphanage. We need to validate each orphanage and make sure they are government recognized and official orphanages. Also, as of now we can’t deliver the bikes everywhere due to high transportation and delivery costs. We work with organizations like the World Bicycle Relief and Qhebeka because their prices are the most affordable but the down side is that they only deliver to certain countries. As we move forward, we are looking to expand our connections and reach orphanages in other countries.
What countries have you serviced so far?
We have helped 5 orphanages in 3 countries, Kenya, South Africa and Armenia. We are in the final steps to delivering 25 bikes to Ethiopia and 15 to another orphanage in South Africa.
Ideally, how many bikes would you like to provide this year?
We are currently trying to raise an additional $10,000 by July of this year. The money will help provide 70 bikes to those in need.