A message from cofounder Mike Brcic
Our lives are often distinguished and guided by defining moments: incidents and events that forever change us and set our lives on different paths. That moment came for me in 2004, in the remote community of Peñas Blancas in the northern jungles of Nicaragua.
I was visiting Peñas Blancas with the Canadian NGO Casa Canadiense; on our 3rd day there we visited the local school, a small brick and mud floor one-room building typical of many schools in developing countries. It was a Saturday, so the school was closed, but the people who lived in this extremely poor community – one that was hit hard by the civil war of the 80s – were proud of their school and they wanted me to see it.
The girl that I met next changed my life forever. She was about 10 years old, in the village for the day to pick up some supplies for her family. I don’t even remember her name, but when I asked her where she lived and how long it took her to get to school, she pointed to the hills lying beyond the village and replied “dos horas, mas o menos.” Two hours, more or less.
“Each way?” I asked
“Si,” she replied. “Cada via.”
I thought back to my own school days in Toronto, when I would ride my shiny purple and yellow bike to school, taking a different route each day and grinning the whole way. The ride took me 10 minutes and was the best part of my day. How would my education have progressed, I wondered, if I had to spend 4 hours a day walking to and from school? I was immediately inspired by this little girls’ determination to get an education.
Since that day, I’ve visited many villages like Peñas Blancas in developingSan Pedro de Casta countries around the world. That girl’s story is not unique – millions of children walk long distances every day just so they can get an education. In most rural areas around the planet, people have limited or no access to cars or public transport and walking is their only mode of transport. A bicycle can have an incredible impact on their lives. A bicycle can not only help children get an education, it can lift a community out of poverty, it can save a life.
In 2006 I knew the time had finally come to do actually ‘put the wheels in motion’ and that I was in a perfect position to actually do something.
I began to collect bikes from clients of my tour company Sacred Rides Mountain Bike Adventures and took two small shipments with me to Peru. I took the bikes to the remote hilltop community of San Pedro de Casta, high in the Andes, and donated them to the local schoolhouse. The stories of how those few bikes have changed the lives of the people in this community were all the inspiration my fiancée and I needed to pursue setting up an organization dedicated to transforming lives with bikes.
On the encouragement of my wife Tanya, we reserved this domain name in 2007 and began to take the steps to register Bikes Without Borders as an official non-profit organization in Canada. In spring 2008 we finally received confirmation from Industry Canada that we were officialy registered.
Much hard work has taken place over the past few years to bring this dream to fruition, and we’re just at the beginning. It’s a daunting process, starting and growing a non-profit organization, but remembering that little girl in Peñas Blancas and her determination to get an education is all the inspiration I need to keep motivated.
I hope the stories and the images you see here will also inspire you to get involved and help us make a difference in the lives of people around the world with the humble bicycle as our tool.