A Week of Giving Away Bicycles, Day 1: Bikes for Schoolchildren in Zambia

11.26.2012 | 1:07 pm

A Note of Congratulations from Fatty: Paul W of North Carolina was the winner of the trip to NYC this weekend to see the SRAM pART Project show. Here’s part of the email he sent when he found out he won:

My two brothers and our families haven’t exchanged gifts for many years; instead we each pick a charity and make a donation. The past two years, my wife and I have donated to WBR. Thanks for bringing it to our attention and showing us firsthand the good WBR is doing.

I look forward to meeting you, the Hammer, and the folks from WBR. I’m hoping “awesome” turns out to be an understatement! Thanks for all you do (on many fronts) and for giving me this opportunity to see a small portion of how WBR makes it all happen.

I really love Paul’s family’s idea of making donations on behalf of each other for Christmas. Really, it feels a lot more true to the intent of the holiday than a gift card to Chili’s.

My sisters and parents can expect a similar gift-giving strategy from me this year. If you’d like to do the same, click here to make a donation. And if you donate $134 (the cost of a bike) or more, WBR will send a card, including a personal message from you, to the person you’re donating on behalf of (The Hammer got her card last week).

And — just like Paul — even though you’re donating on behalf of someone else, you may still win an incredibly cool prize.

A Week of Giving Away Bicycles

This week is going to be all about giving away bicycles. What does that mean? Well, it means that on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week, I’m going to reveal a new prize that will be given away as part of Grand Slam 2, and each of those prizes will be bicycles.

If you take the time to do the math, I have just told you that there will be three different bikes given away as part of this contest. And let me assure you: you will desperately want at least one of them. 

I’m incredibly excited to reveal these latest prizes in what I am absolutely positively confident is the biggest giveaway I have ever done. By a factor of about five, I think. 

Today’s post is also about giving away bicycles. But it’s about the reason we’re doing this big ol’ contest in the first place.

Today’s post is about the day I got to visit a school in Zambia and witness the massive change a bicycle makes in a child’s life.

It’s also the day I — on behalf of all of you — got to give away the last 100 bicycles of the 1000+ we bought in last year’s fundraiser

What I Had Been Waiting For

I loved every single day of my visit to Zambia. But there was one thing I really cared about. One thing I was looking forward to: going to a school and giving away some of the 1000 bikes earned by the Grand Slam for Zambia.

Finally, that day was here.

We started by walking a kilometer or so on the dirt roads the kids walk to get to school (the kids walk anywhere from 2 – 10 Km (up to 5-6 miles) one way, each day to get to school. We had to make way for oxen teams and goats. We also had time to look at the cotton and corn crops, as well as the banana trees growing on the sides of the road.

Such a different range of plants from what we’re used to.

We then road our bikes a few more kilometers to the schoolyard (our guide didn’t want us worn out by having to walk as far as these kids do every day), where we were greeted by song and dance by hundreds of kids, as well as all their parents and the teachers for the school.

I have lost track of how many times I have listened to this song. Incredible voices.

Just to give you a sense of how poor these kids really are and how limited their resources are, consider this: there are a grand total of seven teachers for the 700 children at this school. And here are a couple shots of the school itself. Outside first:

Outside of the school

If you look closely at the kids playing soccer in the field, you’ll see the ball, which is made of plastic bags wrapped up in twine to hold a basic ball-like shape.

And here’s the inside of the school. You may want to sit down for this:



That’s the “chalkboard” you see on the far right of the photo. Also note that there is no glass in the windows. Which was fine when we were there (the weather is perfect during their winter non-rainy season, about 75-80 degrees).

So yeah. The kids here don’t have a lot. Which means that a day where they will be receiving 100 bicycles is a little bit like if everyone in your neighborhood was notified they had won the lottery.

Pretty much everyone in the community showed up for the big ceremony:


A group of people were singing and dancing to welcome us, and — as usual, we were invited to join in. We’d gotten over our shyness and jumped right in. (I was always so excited to see my son Brice always being the first to join in, with a huge smile and no apparent self-conciousness):


Then it was my turn to talk. I had a pretty simple set of objectives with my speech:

  1. Keep it short
  2. Remind the children receiving the bikes that they have important commitments that come with these bikes.
  3. Tell the children to remember that bikes are also for fun.

Here’s my speech; you decide whether I did OK.

Magic Time

And then it was time to give bikes away to the children. Which brings up the question: who gets bikes? Well, that’s one of the really fantastic things about World Bicycle Relief. They’re really smart about that very difficult decision, since — for now — there are a lot fewer bikes than there are children who need them.

So here’s the way it works, to the best of my understanding:

  • 70% of the bikes go to girls. This is because girls take the improved opportunities a bike brings and pour the improvements back into their family and community. Boys tend to be more selfish (I’m talking about a Zambian cultural phenomenon, though I think most people would agree it’s more of a global thing. Sorry guys, but we all know it’s true).
  • Distance and need factor in. Children who live further from school are more likely to get a bike, as are children in families with special needs (like if there’s only one parent present or the family is especially poor).
  • The community makes the decision. In order to avoid having it seem like an uninformed group of strangers decides who gets the bikes, the community leaders take the guidance of WBR and then make the decisions of who gets the bikes. 
  • The bike comes with a contract. I haven’t seen the contract, but it essentially says that in order to keep the bike, the child commits to taking care of the bike and staying in school for at least two more years.

And then, after the contracts are signed, there’s a big ceremony where the children get the bikes, giving an extra sense of importance and responsibility to what they are being given.

We each took turns giving bikes to the children, who were often accompanied by a parent:



I’m pointing at the “Grand Slam for Zambia” sticker in this photo.


To give you an idea of how precious the bikes are to these kids, check out this photo:


Like most children, she will not remove the protective shipping material from the bike until it basically is ready to fall off. They want to preserve this present as new for as long as they can.

And then there was some time for some photos:


After which we’d look on the LCD to see how they had turned out:


A Ride Together

After all this, we said goodbye to the school, and along with one of the girls — Emily — who had just received a new bike, rode our bikes along the dirt paths back to her home.

Along the way, I talked with F.K. Day a little about WBR and what it does:

Then we talked with Emily (the sixth children of eight) and her family under a tree near her house. Emily told us she lives about 5.4 miles away from school, and until today, this meant about a two-hour walk, each way, each day.

And that was after her morning chores of sweeping, gathering water from the well near her house, and cooking breakfast for the family.

And when she got home, she’d still have to tend the garden and do her homework, as well as go for water from the well again.

Obviously, this bike is going to make it possible for this girl to have a much better life, and not just in a small way.

To see what it’s like to draw water from a well, we all walked with her to the well — about 1/2Km away and drew water from it.

Emily showed us how it’s done:


Before long, there was a crowd of about twenty people from the village.


They were all laughing to see a couple of very strange things. First, that white people were drawing water for them. And second, that men were drawing and carrying water (which is clearly women’s work).


The Hammer was better at it than I was.


Emily’s mom then showed us how a pro does it (i.e., no-handed):


That’s some serious skill she’s exhibiting, but it is s-l-o-w work walking a bucket of water from the well to home. Being able to put that bucket of water on the back of her bike from now on is going to improve not just Emily’s life, but her whole family’s life.

That’s awesome.

There are 1000+ people whose lives are vastly improved, thanks to the bikes we gave away in 2012.

I’m excited to work with you to give away even more in 2013


  1. Comment by Chris Engle | 11.26.2012 | 1:16 pm

    What a worthy cause. If i’m lucky enought to win one of the bikes I will auction it off and give the proceeds back to WBR. Happy Holidays

  2. Pingback by A Week of Giving Away Bicycles, Day 1: Bikes for … – Fat Cyclist | Bicycle News Gator | 11.26.2012 | 1:40 pm

    [...] here to see the original: A Week of Giving Away Bicycles, Day 1: Bikes for … – Fat Cyclist This entry was posted in Blog Search and tagged attention, bringing, brothers, charity, donated, [...]

  3. Comment by FujiPixie13 / Beci | 11.26.2012 | 3:26 pm

    Fatty, your stories never fail to inspire me. Chapeau.

  4. Comment by Anonymous | 11.26.2012 | 3:28 pm

    Great write up, and photos! I , as your sister, am proud of you and all the continued work you do for others! Great idea for a Christmas gift…cant think of anything more that I would want.
    Keep up the good work!

  5. Comment by TomE | 11.26.2012 | 3:59 pm

    Just hearing them sing may my afternoon. I might just need to listen to that every morning…

  6. Comment by Justin L | 11.26.2012 | 4:13 pm

    Love it, question though. When they have a flat tire or wear the tire out. Is there anything in place to help them get the bike running again, and how is that paid for. Just thinking how much this helps them i would hate for the bikes to just become junk.

  7. Comment by Anonymous | 11.26.2012 | 4:49 pm

    Yay! Yay! Yay!

    Congratulations to Paul W on his prize! :)

    My second installment on the bike has been made. I completely forgot to make it on payday. I’m making installments on each payday so that by the end of December, I’ll have purchased 1 bike.

    Thank you for this post that explains in greater detail how the bikes are used and how they make a difference as well as showing photos and videos of one of the communities.

    I’m so stinkin’ proud of being a part of this, but really dismayed when I saw that we have a LONG way to go to achieve our goal. Hopefully, people are procrastinators and start giving.

    Please remember to include that if you’d like to opt out of the prizes and receive a tax deductible receipt, you can do that too (I can’t remember the link, but I know it was posted in the comments section by the lovely lady from WBR).

    Thanks for allowing us to do good and give. :) It means a lot.

    PS If someone in the lower 48 could send up some snow to Alaska, I’d be really appreciative. We have a scant inch or two on the ground. Makes riding my new snowbike a bit hard. We are WAY below normal for precipitation and must be setting a record for consecutive sunny (but cold) days. I love the sunshine, but we need snow!

  8. Comment by AKChick55 | 11.26.2012 | 4:52 pm

    Oops! The Yay! Yay! Yay! post above is mine. I forgot to put in my name. Doh! Must be a case of the Mondays.

  9. Comment by Katie Bolling | 11.26.2012 | 8:50 pm

    @Justin – That’s a great question and I imagine that Fatty may comment on in it in a future post but here’s a brief answer for now and feel free to email me at kbolling@worldbicyclerelief.org if you have additonal questions.
    For every 50 bikes delivered into the field, World Bicycle Relief trains a mechanic at the local level to ensure a few things: 1) that a new business opportunity presents itself to that individual (and community), 2) that spare parts can be monitored and 3) So bicycle recipients have a reliable source for questions regarding the care and maintenance of their bicycles. At the same time, at every local distribution (like the one Fatty described above) the school puts together a “bicycle kitty” that is made of basic spare parts – tubes, tires and other small items – for the recipients to rely on. From there, the economic engine should take course. Outside the recipient’s “one free check up” and the initial kitty, the mechanics start their own businesses with their new bicycle and entrepreneurial skills and the bicycle recipients take care of their own maintenance and spare parts needs like we do.
    We have some truly neat stories from the success of our mechanic training program – which has trained over 700 mechanics. Contact me if you’d like to see some of them! Thanks! Katie

  10. Comment by ClydeinKS | 11.26.2012 | 8:58 pm

    Oh the pains of waiting for payday, can’t wait to contribute and finish gift purchases!

  11. Comment by Kiki | 11.26.2012 | 9:35 pm

    My father spent time working in Africa and is always telling us stories of his time there. Just purchased a bike in his honor for his 70th birthday. Thanks Fatty!

  12. Comment by Tom | 11.26.2012 | 10:47 pm

    beautiful work on getting the bikes out. I wonder how a bike trailer would for water hauling for the village.


  13. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 11.27.2012 | 12:48 am

    I’m still reading but this stopped me mid sentence….

    “…We then road our bikes…”

    Really?? How’s that work?

  14. Comment by Brian in VA | 11.27.2012 | 10:06 am

    This is such a great story.

    Fatty, I also checked and discovered my company will do a 100% match of my donation. So that’s 2 bikes on their way!

  15. Comment by Skippy | 11.27.2012 | 11:06 am

    Fatty ,
    Your latest fundraiser , caused me to think about other ways to publicise ” WBR “, and thus a post was generated that i think you will enjoy reading . No doubt you will even think of adding a ” Pink WBR Bike “, to your stable of bikes ?

  16. Comment by rich | 11.27.2012 | 11:20 am

    Wow, what an amazing story and once again…THANK YOU for finding awesome and creative ways that we can do good!

  17. Comment by Davidh-Marin,ca | 11.27.2012 | 12:07 pm

    So wife#1 just woo hooo’d that her bonus was set. Sounds like a few family members are getting new ‘bikes’ this Christmas! When she said she was getting bikes for her father for Christmas, my first thought was he’s not going to ride that in the city (SF). Then she
    s’plained it to me.

  18. Comment by Wife#1 | 11.27.2012 | 1:30 pm

    Excellent, with annual bonus determined, we just “gave” 4 bikes as Christmas gifts. 2 for the grandparents and 2 for our kids. Not sure I did it correctly to be entered into the contest, but I’m still living the dream of the signed Chris Horner socks anyway from AKChick. :-)

    We’ll see if we can wrangle the funds for a couple more before all is said and done. And for my sweet husband’s sake, I’ll make sure I enter those correctly for the contest. I saw his ears perk up when he read “bikes” as giveaways.

    Alas we learned last year that no matching gift option from David’s employer because it happens outside the US, bummer!

    Thanks for making the Christmas shopping a little easier Fatty. Say, when is the weight loss event going to begin? I’m a ringer for this year!

  19. Comment by Marc | 11.27.2012 | 1:56 pm

    Wife#1, you are right. I immediately regretted posting that. I tried to find a way to delete it but to no avail. That discussion doesn’t belong here.

    I think the whole conversation can go. That was totally gracious of you, BTW. – FC

  20. Comment by Davidh-Marin,ca | 11.27.2012 | 2:27 pm

    Fatty. You failed to mention stature, as another area where you are “picked on”. And by “stature” I don’t mean award winning, race winning(some dispute there) comedic mastermind, I’m suggesting another definition.

    @Marc. Read Fatty’s and your response to Wife#1 (yes we do talk to each other in forums other than this blog post) and all is good in the world.

  21. Comment by Jenni | 11.27.2012 | 4:57 pm

    Dumb question, but here goes:

    If no one has bikes (or presumably very very few), how do they know how to ride a bike?

    That’s a great question, and one I wondered myself as I saw these kids just take off on their new bikes. I wish I would have asked. – FC

  22. Comment by Jodi | 11.28.2012 | 12:59 pm

    That video of them singing actually brought tears to my eyes. Seriously beautiful. Lucky you. Lucky them.

  23. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » Seven New Prizes Today: A Week of Giving Away Bicycles, Day 3 | 11.28.2012 | 3:31 pm

    [...] to day 3 of a Week of Giving Away Bicycles. To recap, on Monday we talked about the whole purpose of this fundraising monster: getting bicycles to kids in Zambia, vastly improving their chances at getting an education, a job, [...]

  24. Pingback by Donating to the Grand Slam for Zambia 2 | My Green Misadventure | 12.1.2012 | 12:48 pm

    [...] If you want an idea of what this can mean to a community, check out the post where some of the bicycles are distributed. [...]

  25. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » Bikes and Business | 12.20.2012 | 11:19 am

    [...] three big ways. The biggest way — the way I’ve focused on in my fundraisers — is bikes for schoolchildren. The second way is by providing bikes to community [...]


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