Currently, with lockdowns in place across the province, our approach to logistics in the weeks ahead will be challenging, but our resilient team has proven they can rise to the occasion and that their dedication to helping our families is paramount.
Last week, out team worked incredibly hard to acquire the relevant permissions for us to continue distributing ongoing emergency relief. As you are reading this, selected staff are out in the field delivering urgent food & hygiene supplies to our families in need.
Although the current covid-19 situation is confronting, we are once again adapting our programs and re-coordinating our team. What is unfolding in Cambodia is extremely problematic, but we refuse to let our concerns deter us from sharing with you our positive news.
Afterall, it is the positives that get us through.
In December last year, Lori Carlson from Ponheary Ly Foundation (PLF) approached us to talk bicycles. Knowing we had a small-scale repair shop on site at REACH, Lori wanted to know if we’d be interested in accepting a donation of over 100 second-hand bicycles.
Not only did she offer to deliver the bikes to us, but she also offered to provide us with the repair budget to fix them! Her only request was that we recycle and repair their bikes and put them to good use.
Why did PLF have so many pre-loved bikes to gift?
Ponheary Ly Foundation’s Bicycle Program.
At the beginning of each school year, PLF award bicycles to their students who have graduated from Grade 6 at each of the five primary schools they support. These bikes enable the kids to get to secondary school, where more often than not, their schools are located many kilometers from their villages. Over the bumpy, dusty, countryside roads of Cambodia, wear and tear of these bikes are inevitable.
In normal times, PLF is able to host regular Bicycle Clinics so hundreds of secondary school students can keep those bikes on the road. The current situation has made that approach less realistic and too many students had bikes that could not get them to school. Knowing that REACH had the potential to reuse the bikes, PLF opted to replace broken bikes rather than try to repair them.
At the time of the offer, our Repair Shop program was just starting out and only had one set of tools and one workstation.
Did we have the capacity to take on these bikes at the time of the offer? Absolutely not, but PLF’s offer was too good to pass up!
With long-term, big picture goals for our repair shop in mind, PLF’s generosity ignited excitement that could not be ignored.
To the drawing board we went.
Bo and Volunteer Marco talk Repair Shop strategy.
With the help of a small team on the 23rd of February, our Program Manager Rin Borith (Bo) set out clear goals for the REACH Repair Shop in 2021, and the following key objectives were established:
Goal 1. Continue Community Support
Continue training our teenagers to give back to the community by repairing bicycles for our students and their guardians.
Goal 2. Increase Shop Capacity
Expand, renovate and kit out our existing Repair Shop area with: 3 main workstations complete with tool sets, bench grinders, drills, compressors and a spraying room to perform complete end-to-end refurbishments.
Goal 3. Create A Training Program:
Create an official 6-month Bicycle Maintenance course for our youths and submit to Ministry of Labour to be recognised in Cambodia.
Goal 4. Recycle, Refurbish & Sustain:
Use selected PLF’s second-hand bikes to train our youths in end-to-end bike repair and refurbishment and sell the end products. All funds raised from bike sales to go directly back into sustaining the training school.
Goals 1, 3 and 4 were all in the realm of possibility, but Goal 2 required substantial funds and the clock was ticking; PLF’s delivery date for the bikes was planned mid-March. Luckily, in line with the exact time our dream project plan unfolded, a generous sponsor stepped forward to pay the entire cost of setting up and fitting out the shop. Everything was falling into place at the right time and our enthusiasm for this project was undeniable.
The following week, our trusted builder got to work and Bo went out purchasing all of the equipment.
TAKE A TOUR OF OUR NEW AND IMPROVED REACH REPAIR SHOP IN 2021:
As planned on Sunday, March the 14th, PLF delivered the first batch of pre-loved bikes to our school.
PLF delivers first trailer full of second-hand bikes!
Sadly, the following day, in response to covid-19, in line with government schools we were forced to temporarily close our school gates for the second time. Once again, determined to adapt, Bo’s team pushed forward and have since registered and stored all of these bikes safely.
Each bike has been tagged with an individual code and has been lined up for their repairs. Using a “triage” system, each of the PLF bikes will be treated in one of the following three ways:
Salvaged: The bike condition is too bad to repair; bike is stripped and all salvageable parts are used as spares. Any scrap metal is then sold on to a private recycling company. For every 1 kilogram of metal we recycle, we receive back up to 25 cents and this small income goes directly back into project.
Fixed: The bike requires minor repairs to be fully functioning before being distributed to a deserving beneficiary. All recipients of bicycles are screened first and put on a wait list in order of importance.
Refurbished: The bike is in good condition, has a decent frame and wheels and can be refurbished. Bike is stripped, cleaned, repaired and newly painted with a basket, bell and light attached. Bike can then be sold to customers with 100% of profits going back into the project.
With all new tools, compressors, a spray station and three workstations, despite the schools closure, our Repair Shop team have gotten stuck right into it. No lock downs or logistical challenges have managed to stop this eager team.
The first hurdle they experienced was the lock-down of our Repair Shop Supervisor Mr. Polin who spent 2 weeks in Chok Kok Village. With limited resources, here he studied all processes set up by Borith as well as all of the English vocabulary of technical bike parts. He listed ideas on best practice for training the youths and continued to work on his computer skills.
The next hurdle was the lockdown of Program Manager Bo. From the safety of his home he has been diligently researching existing bicycle maintenance courses, has planned the course framework and has commenced writing content for his 6-month training course.
Meanwhile, their keen intern who lives in Thlok Andoung village, has been stripping bikes from his own dedicated zone within REACH.
Our intern strips PLF bikes from the safety of his own work zone at REACH.
Luckily, Polin is now out of lock-down and back at REACH working under socially distanced requirements, guiding our intern and establishing clear processes for our refurbishments.
In preparation of another lock-down in Polin’s village, he has transported more than 10 bikes and tools to his home. This way, if he is locked in again, he will be able to continue his refurbishing work from home, in Cambodia charity work must go on!
Our Repair Shop Supervisor Polin working on bikes from home with his little helper.
Despite ongoing challenges, since receiving the bikes in mid-March, the team have successfully refurbished 5 of the PLF bikes. Approximately 18 hours of hard work goes into an end-to-end refurbishment, turning these from old rusty bicycles, to almost brand new!
Our first refurb:
This is collaboration at its finest. What started out as an idea to minimise waste and a kind gesture from another NGO, has quickly turned into the basis for an entire project and vocational training program at REACH.
As Bo continues to work on developing the course framework and his team continues to perfect the refurbishing process, we are choosing to see this forced closure as an opportunity. While we are disappointed that our students aren’t yet training in the new facility, there is no shortage of groundwork required to establish this program properly.
We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again… Collaboration is key.
We are all in this together, and when like-minded charities combine forces, magic happens.
We would like to whole-heartedly thank PLF for providing us with these bicycles and the budget to recycle them.
Would you like to get Involved with this project?
Advocate for us!
- Share this story, comment on this blog and help us spread the word.
- Beat the drums in your home country to promote this program and help to find us Volunteering partners or bike sponsors.
Donate An Old Bike
- Do you live in Siem Reap and want to donate your pre-loved bicycle?
Please email Bo at email@example.com
Purchase A Refurbished Bike:
- Are you living in Siem Reap, and want to purchase one of our very first refurbished REACH branded bicycles?
- Are you an NGO, school or business that wants to purchase wholesale quantities?
- Do you want to customise your design with a colour/sticker of your choice?
An incredible way to support our initiative is to purchase our refurbished bicycles. 100% of the profits go directly back into the training program for our youths.
While we only have a few bikes on hand, purchasing will be possible in the near future – to inquire about an order please email firstname.lastname@example.org