Thursday September 25, 2014
Philip Holt, a senior at South Burlington High School, is helping to organize a collection of used bicycles and sewing machines this coming Saturday, September 27, at the Champlain Exposition on Route 15 in Essex Junction. The donated items will help people in developing countries work their way out of poverty. Since 1999, “Pedals for Progress” has shipped more than 3,000 bikes and 50 sewing machines from Vermont to projects in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Uganda, Moldova, and Vietnam.
Holt participates in the Ripple program, a local ecumenical youth ministry which has joined forces with several former Peace Corps volunteers to arrange the annual collection of used bikes and sewing machines. The group requests $10 with each item donated to help cover international shipping expenses. A receipt for the full value of the item will be provided for tax purposes.
“There are hundreds of old bikes and sewing machines in this community that are just collecting dust,” says Holt, who has helped with the project for several years. “When you donate the items, plus $10 toward shipping, they are transformed into a lifeline for someone who is struggling just to survive. Bikes are environmentally sustainable transportation to get to a job or to school; sewing machines allow someone to learn skills and start a small business. It is just amazing how people’s lives are changed by this simple technology.”
Teens in Ripple were particularly moved to learn how donated sewing machines are being used in Moldova, a country in Eastern Europe. Jobs are scarce in Moldova, and many young women seek work in Romania or Italy. Unfortunately, they often end up as victims of human trafficking networks. A local teacher has launched a sewing workshop to provide skills and employment for these vulnerable young women.
The group will accept any bike that can be repaired, even if the tires are flat, the seat is torn, or the chain is slipped. “The only thing we can’t handle is a broken frame or deep rust,” says Holt. “Anything else can be fixed, and these bikes will be on the road for the next twenty years, helping families in need put food on the table.” Pedals for Progress partner organizations in the receiving countries manage bike repair and distribution.
Sewing machines should be in working condition, and can be portable or table models.
The collection will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, September 27, at the Champlain Exposition on Route 15 in Essex Junction. For more information, or to volunteer, call Joanne Heidkamp at 802-238-5414.