Three summers ago, Whit Findlay and his father, Bayne, were on a monthlong bike trip across southern Africa when the Sudbury residents came across a Bicycles For Humanity storage container in Namibia.
Impressed by the grass-roots organization through which 100,000 bikes have been donated to Africa from eight countries since 2005, Whit looked to join a local chapter after returning home. Finding none in Massachusetts, the now 18-year-old partnered with his brother, 15-year-old Reed, to establish Bicycles For Humanity Boston.
For two years after forming the nonprofit in fall 2013, the brothers organized bike drives where they had access to storage space in Sudbury, Andover, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. In total, they collected 419 used bikes while raising $12,500 to purchase and ship a 40-foot, used storage container.
As the culmination of the two-year effort, they were recently joined by family members and friends in packing the container for shipment to Botswana, where the bikes will help villagers haul food, water, and goods as well as travel to school and the hospital.
According to Whit, the majority of the bikes were old and dusty, but in fine working condition. All were cleaned and prepped prior to shipping, with damaged tubes and tires patched by his family — including the teens’ 13-year-old sister, Brooke — who all completed a 10-hour bike repair course just for the occasion.
The container is expected to arrive on Jan. 26 in the village of Ramotswa, according to Whit, where it will be repurposed into a shop in which bikes needing more significant repairs will be fixed or used for parts. With $3,500 in donated funds remaining, he said, a second delivery is in the early planning stages. Next time, however, he hopes to travel to Africa and assist with the receiving end of the operation.
“A lot of people in Sudbury have already donated bikes,” said Whit, noting his appreciation to his mother, Gretchen, and all the donors who have supported their vision. “Hopefully, we’ve sparked enough interest so it spreads across Massachusetts and more people get involved.”
For more information, visit www.b4h-boston.org.Cindy Cantrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.