ChildFund hopes to raise enough funds to pay for 3,400 bicycles for girls across 12 countries in time for the UCI World Road Championships in September. So far, Covington Travel, The Hodges Partnership and Tredegar, which has made a $25,000 grant, have pledged their support, as well as the Twenty16 women’s professional cycling team.
Bikes are important to ChildFund International — but not for the reason you might think. The Henrico County-based global nonprofit organization associates bicycles with education and the empowerment of girls.
As Richmond 2015’s Official Charity of Choice, ChildFund — with the support of Richmond 2015 — launched the 10-Bike Challenge on June 3. The 76-year-old organization, which serves 18.2 million children and family members living in poverty in 30 countries, is asking local businesses to each raise $1,000 to purchase 10 Dream Bikes for girls who need them to complete their education.
So, what is a Dream Bike? It’s a sturdy, no-frills bicycle purchased in-country for school-aged girls to ride to and from school. Often, there’s a rack or a basket so they can carry their books and other necessities.
In developing countries, many children say that finishing their education is their greatest goal, says ChildFund President & CEO Anne Goddard.
ChildFund International President and CEO Anne Goddard announces the 10-Bike Challenge at Richmond Cycling Corps on June 3.
But they usually don’t mean attending college, she points out. “What these kids are talking about is finishing grammar school, middle school or sometimes high school. Instead of riding buses, these kids get to school by walking.”
During these daily, hours-long journeys, students encounter wild animals, rough terrain and people who don’t have children’s best interests at heart, Goddard says. A bike helps speed up the commute, as well as making it safer.
Girls especially are at risk, and many drop out because it is simply too arduous to trek back and forth to school every day, sometimes leaving home before sunrise and returning after dark.
Hirabai, a 14-year-old girl from a small village in rural India, started walking a 2-mile route to school when she was 6. She was often late to school and was not allowed to enter her classroom, and one day, she and some friends encountered a pack of wild boars.
Hirabai says she wasn’t sure if she would complete her education after enrolling at the even more distant high school. But then she received a Dream Bike last year, and her brother taught her how to ride it. Today, Hirabai and her friends get to school on time and can do their homework after returning from school.
“Once I finish high school, I’m going to college,” she says. “I’m going to be a police officer.”
As the world’s elite cyclists race down Richmond’s streets in pursuit of their dreams, ChildFund and its supporters also are keeping in mind the dreams of girls around the world — and how bicycles play a crucial role.