By Himangi Jayasundera, ChildFund Sri Lanka
Nine-year-old Lojana dreams about having a bike. She wants one not just to ride to school, which is 2 kilometers away, but also because she would be able to live again full time with her grandmother in Sri Lanka.
Lojana lost her mother to cancer when she was just 3, and her father, who has remarried, lives separately with his new wife, while Lojana and her sister have lived at their grandmother’s house until recently.
An elephant trampled their home, and now all three live in Lojana’s uncle’s house, which is miles away from school. During the week, Lojana stays with a relative who lives closer to her school and stays with her uncle on weekends. Buses run infrequently, so a bicycle would help Lojana travel from her uncle’s home to school and require less moving around.
That’s where ChildFund’s Dream Bike project comes into play. We are working to raise money to provide 3,400 girls in 12 countries (including Sri Lanka) with bikes, which will allow them to travel to school safely and quickly, instead of walking long distances through sometimes dangerous terrain. Snake bites are very common where Lojana lives, and the hospital is a long distance away. Sometimes people die before they can get medical help.
Lojana is sponsored and receives financial support for her books and other educational needs from her sponsor, which is a “big relief,” according to her grandmother, who is struggling to make a livelihood. “I have a few chickens and sell about five eggs a day,” she says, noting that the family depends on help from Lojana’s uncle and ChildFund Sri Lanka.
Despite the hardships in her life, Lojana has big dreams: “I’d like to be a doctor one day,” she says.
You can help girls like Lojana achieve their educational dreams by donating a Dream Bike.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer; Photos by Christine Ennulat, ChildFund Content Manager
This morning, ChildFund launched the 10-Bike Challenge in connection with the UCI Road World Championships, which will bring more than 1,000 elite cyclists from 75 countries to the streets of Richmond, Virginia, in September. The organizer of the nine-day event, Richmond 2015, has named ChildFund as its “Official Charity of Choice.”
As part of our cooperative effort, we’re asking Richmond businesses to raise $1,000 to purchase 10 Dream Bikes for girls in 12 countries who need them to get to and from school. Our goal is to raise enough funds to pay for 3,400 bicycles, and we’re well on our way, with pledges from Richmond PR firm Hodges Partnership, Covington Travel and Tredegar, a Richmond-based global manufacturer of plastic films and aluminum extrusions, which has made a $25,000 grant.
“We are so happy that the world is coming to Richmond this September,” ChildFund President & CEO Anne Goddard said at today’s power breakfast at Richmond Cycling Corps. She noted that many children interviewed for the ChildFund Alliance’s annual Small Voices Big Dreams survey say they wish to continue their educations, despite many obstacles.
In developing countries, children who say they want to stay in school usually don’t mean attending college, Goddard pointed 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.” Snakes, rough terrain and people who don’t have children’s best interests at heart present serious obstacles, she said. A bike helps speed up the commute, as well as making it safer.
“From the very beginning, we’ve talked about Richmond 2015 as being bigger than just a bike race,” said Lee Kallman, marketing and communications director of Richmond 2015. “The Dream Bike program really demonstrates the power of the bicycle.”
Mari Holden, sports director of the Twenty16 professional women’s cycling team (as well as an Olympic silver medalist and six-time U.S. championship winner), said that her cyclists have accepted the 10-Bike Challenge, too. “This Dream Bike program really resonates with our core values,” she said, naming education and empowering girls.
Holden added later, “I think for us, cycling is a sport where we learn about perseverance.” It’s different for girls in developing countries, who must show perseverance just to attend school, as opposed to competitive cycling, but Holden says that she and her team are all for helping girls become educated and reach their goals.
Liz Gluck of Covington Travel, the Richmond-based travel agency that has taken the 10-Bike Challenge, says that the owner, Josée Covington, has pledged to match her employees’ donations, and they’re already halfway to the $1,000 goal. “We just thought it was a great cause, to support ChildFund and empower girls.”
Josh Dare, co-founder of the Hodges Partnership, said that if his firm of 15 people can take the challenge, so can other smaller and midsized companies. “What a great opportunity this is,” he said. “I’m thinking of this as our own bike rally. Let’s rise to this challenge.”
You, too, can help girls continue their educations by donating a Dream Bike.
By Himangi Jayasundere, ChildFund Sri Lanka
Today, which is known as Black Friday in the United States, is a great opportunity to think about sharing our good fortune with children in need. Dream Bikes allow children — especially girls — to get to school safely and quickly.
An impatient Piyumi, waiting for her father to take her to school, used to be a regular sight. Her teacher scolded her many times for being late, which she often was: Her long trek from home to school was more than two miles each way, on foot unless she could catch a ride on her father’s bicycle. Some days she stayed home because it was too difficult to get to school.
But today, she no longer has to catch a bicycle ride with her father or walk down village paths in Mahakalugolle, Sri Lanka. Piyumi, an 11-year-old sixth-grade student, has her own bike, thanks to a ChildFund donor.
Piyumi has been in ChildFund’s sponsorship program for more than five years. Last year, she sat for Sri Lanka’s Year 5 scholarship exam and passed with high marks, which made her school proud.
So, along with the bicycle, Piyumi also received school materials, a school bag and shoes from ChildFund donors, to recognize her hard work and achievements.
“Some days, I had to wait till my father finished his work to come to school,” Piyumi says. “But now soon as I get ready, I can come to school on my own. My brother also likes my new bicycle.” Sometimes he rides with her.
“I feel better knowing that Piyumi is on a bike on the journey back home,” her mother says. “I feel that she is safer.”
As you may have noticed during the past few months, we have encouraged ChildFund supporters to purchase bikes as part of our Dream Bikes program. Girls in Sri Lanka and India face long walks to school, as well as attendant danger and exhaustion. Bicycles make a real difference.
And now, 1,000 girls will have their wheels, thanks to the generosity of our donors. We cannot thank you enough. We could not be prouder of everyone that contributed to this campaign, which began in September. Together, we raised enough money to provide 1,000 girls with bikes in less than 140 days. That’s about seven bikes a day!
Maybe you clicked onto our website and saw the video of Hirabai on her bicycle. Or you were scanning through Facebook and saw our posts about Dream Bikes on Giving Tuesday in December. However you found out about our Dream Bike campaign, we are so happy that you did — and that you took action to help a girl stay in school.
Thank you to everyone who helped us to reach our goal in record time, but more importantly, thank you for changing 1,000 girls’ lives and giving them the opportunity to finish their education, which they might have had to otherwise forego.
If you missed our Dream Bikes campaign, don’t worry. You can still contribute $100 and help change a life. Because you know what’s better than giving 1,000 bicycles? Giving 2,000!
By Christine Ennulat, ChildFund Senior Writer
Giving Tuesday is a day dedicated to giving back.
And today, we will be doing our part by trying to reach a goal of providing bicycles to 1,000 girls who live in rural villages in Sri Lanka and India — so they can continue their path toward education and economic independence.
In developing countries the world over, girls are up at the crack of dawn, getting ready to leave for school. They have to be, because their morning ritual includes a long, long walk — two miles, three miles or more.
A Year Ago
In Sri Lanka, Sanuja’s trek to school is a gravel road through a deep wilderness, especially scary in the dark. But she has no choice if she is to take advantage of the evening classes her school offers to help children make up ground lost while Sri Lanka’s schools were closed during the recent civil conflict. So, Sanuja leaves the class early or skips it entirely to be home before dark.
In rural India, snakes or scorpions often block Shakuntala’s path to school. Sometimes streams rush down from the hillsides and across the way during the monsoons. Her classmate Hirabai once faced a pack of wild boars.
Both girls remember stopping to help friends who had hurt themselves on the poorly maintained roads, and being late for it. At their school, when anyone is late for any reason, they are made to stand outside of class for an hour.
Sanuja’s attendance at school and her special classes is now regular and punctual, and her grades have improved dramatically — with the gift of a Dream Bike.
Shakuntala, who wants to become a teacher and support her widowed mother, and Hirabai, who aspires to be a police officer, feel much more confident that they’ll be able to achieve their dreams, thanks to the gift of a Dream Bike.
As we focus on giving gifts during the holiday season, consider the girls of India and Sri Lanka who could live happier lives with greater educational and job opportunities, better health and economic freedom. Donate a Dream Bike.