Making a Difference, One Bike at a Time
July 7, 2017
What impact can a bike make?
To the children from impoverished backgrounds who have received a bicycle from the 88bikes Foundation, the answer is it can be life changing.
Co-founded by Seattle writer and filmmaker Dan Austin, 88bikes endows bicycles to girls in developing countries throughout the world, especially the survivors of human trafficking. The bikes provide them with a multitude of benefits, both tangible and intangible. To some, a bike is a means of travel to school or work, while to others, a gift of a bike simply makes them joyful in the midst of their challenging lives.
“When the girls receive a bike, they’re just really, really happy. I think we underestimate just how much of a tool – for transcendence, for happiness, for moving forward in your life – a bike can be, especially in some of these countries,” said Austin. “Even if they’re not going to use that bike to get to a job or to shrink distances, the fact that someone cared enough about them to give them a bike has massive impact.”
88bikes conducts its work on the grassroots level, making immediate impact. Donors contribute $88 to purchase one bike and have the opportunity to send a card with their own picture to the girl receiving the bike, thus connecting each survivor one-to-one with her donor. 88bikes partners with vetted, locally-run NGOs, purchases bicycles from local vendors and hires local labor. ElliptiGO is a proud partner of 88bikes, providing elliptical bicycles to volunteers who find them very comfortable since they are riding all day.
“From the moment we connected with ElliptiGO many years ago, we definitely felt like kindred spirits. It took me no convincing to fall in love with the ElliptiGO. The moment I jumped on one, I was totally sold,” Austin said. He has since incorporated ElliptiGO bicycles into his projects worldwide and is personally an avid user, calling the GO “his bike of choice.” Austin estimates he has ridden his ElliptiGO bike more than 10,000 miles in both the United States and Cambodia.
88bikes has made an impact on a global level, having donated over 6,000 bikes since its founding in 2007, an impressive feat for a foundation that started as the result of one bike trip. In 2006, Austin and his brother Jared planned an epic bike ride across Cambodia, where they decided to donate their bicycles at the end of their journey. Realizing that there were many more children to receive bikes than just the two that they had to offer, Austin, his brother and friend Nick Arauz began 88bikes to endow even more bicycles to children in need.
To this day, 88bikes continues operating on a lean, grassroots level, making personal, one-to-one connections. For Austin, the most powerful moment is when the girls receive their bikes, sharing, “The bike is something important, but really it’s the whole experience, what we call the ‘Moment of Happy,’ when they receive the card from the donor and they get the bike. We’re able to talk with them. It’s a moment of recognition that is so important in what we do. It’s at that time that the transformation takes place. That’s when folks can potentially move forward.”