Traveling around the dusty roads in Cambodia, you are sure to encounter a fusion of noise, traffic and “organised” chaos. It consists of the more privileged that sit behind the wheel of their big cars, tuk-tuk drivers eagerly out scouting for potential customers and motorbikes weaving in and out of traffic, but easily one of the most popular modes of transport you will see locals using is – bicycles!
A REACH student shows us his broken bicycle during home visits.
Bicycles are not only used as a means of getting from A to B, but they are often instrumental in earning an income. Approximately 30% of parents of the children attending REACH are sellers, with the majority selling their goods from bicycles. From ice cream to sticky rice, balloons to snails, sellers carry their items on their bike and cycle to multiple villages in the hope of making sales. Broken bicycles are detrimental to the ability of poor parents earning an income.
Access to a working bicycle is not only of paramount importance to adults, but also to children. Having access to a bicycle is often the defining factor as to whether or not a child attends school. A huge part of the problem lies in general maintenance. Pothole induced flat tyres, rusty chains and broken seats are among the many issues that we see. Often families simply do not have enough money for repairs or lack the knowledge of how to do it themselves, and as a result, bicycles are discarded. With impoverished families already facing so many adversities, knowing that something so easily solvable can be a contributing factor to the poverty cycle was unfathomable.
And so, the ‘REACH Repairs’ shop was created…
The REACH Repairs shop acts as a free of charge service whereby parents and students drop off their bicycles to be fixed and maintained. This service is a student run initiative with the goal of ensuring that every child at REACH can easily attend school, and that their parents and grandparents have working bicycles to that they can always go to work.
Last month, our partner Grasshopper Adventures hosted an initial training workshop for our teenage REACH Role Models, teaching them about maintaining and fixing bikes. We then reached out to the expatriate community in Siem Reap, asking for donations of unused or damaged bicycles. The response was incredible, and we were gifted 14 pre-loved bicycles for our students to repair before being donated to a child or parent in need.
A hard-working REACH father was using a rusty broken bicycle to cycle 40kms in the heat to sell ice-creams – we swapped his old bike out for a newly repaired bike courtesy of a Siem Reap expat. Our REACH Role Models also repaired his sons bike so that he can travel to school… They were very happy customers!
In the future our REACH Role Models plan to host regular road safety workshops for our repair shop beneficiaries. With each bicycle that is donated and gifted, we hope to include a lock and helmet to promote safety on the roads.
We are so proud of our REACH Role Model students, who have shown such passion and enthusiasm in giving back to their community, by volunteering their time to fix the bicycles.
Watch the video below to hear what one of our fantastic role models thinks about her new responsibility and why fixing bicycles is so important.
At REACH, we endeavour to look at the bigger picture, not giving a handout, but a hand up so that our hardworking families can be their own change makers.
To promote the fitness, health and mental wellbeing we also host regular club rides around Siem Reap. These rides serve as an opportunity for our teenagers, who are currently without school, to get together and ride for a purpose. It gives them a sense of community and enables our staff to better monitor their situation and learn about the individual challenges they are facing.
Exploring on a REACH Riders Club Ride with our Youths.
In addition to bicycles, repairs and cycling playing a large part in the lives of kids and parents at REACH, our annual charity bike ride ‘Ride to REACH’ is a life-changing fundraising event designed to ensure longevity of our cause. This exciting event will see dedicated supporters around the world to come together and cycle across Cambodia with the common goal of supporting REACH families to break longstanding cycles of poverty.
Our first international ride was planned for January 2021, however, with COVID-19 and restrictions on international travel currently threatening our first event, we have begun developing a new and exciting plan that involves both our supporters AND our students.
Stay tuned… more information coming soon!
* BICYCLE SPONSOR AND PARTNER WANTED: We are looking to partner with a bike company (international or local), that is interested in donating bicycles (new or used) to our program. If you have any leads, please Contact Us.