Letter from the Director, September 2013

News released on: 
Sep 4th, 2013

Dear Friends,

Carlos Marroquin of Bici-Tec in Guatemala

Summer at Bikes Not Bombs is always incredibly busy, and this year was no exception. We welcomed hundreds of young people into our Hub for summer jobs and programs, loaded bikes to Nevis/St. Kitts, and El Salvador, offered more free clinics at our Bike Shop, and held our most successful Bike-A-Thon ever.

We continue to be in awe of our community for your help in making all this work possible, and we thank you for considering a donation to Bikes Not Bombs this fall.

We’re especially proud that amidst all this action we were able to complete a five-year strategic plan. With input from staff, board, youth, and volunteers, we developed four main goals, one of which is to build leadership capacity and community self-determination in lower income communities in Boston and the Global South. We want to not only bring bikes and mechanics training to communities that ask for it, but also help develop leaders in these communities so that social change can be conceived and driven by them, not imposed by us. We see each project as a long-term commitment, not something that ends once the bikes are delivered.

Not long after we crafted these strategic goals, we were presented with an opportunity to see them through. For the last 15 years, Carlos Marroquin, a superstar in the world of bicycle machines (bicimáquinas), worked as the main designer and fabricator at Maya Pedal in Guatemala, an organization he helped found and build, and which was a BNB partner project for 11 years. In the fall of 2012, Carlos approached BNB about getting support to move on from Maya Pedal, to start Bici-Tec, a new organization, with a different model. Through Maya Pedal, Carlos invented bicycle blenders, water pumps, and corn de-grainers, among other machines that save farmers time and energy. He is now ready to use Bici-Tec to take bicimáquina technology in new innovative directions by building it into a school for bicycle machine technology.

BNB sent Bici-Tec its first shipment of bikes in April, but our partnership started well before that because BNB’s approach to international development goes much deeper than just delivering bikes. We have been part of a team for Carlos that has provided administrative and technological support, along with much-needed solidarity. This July, Carlos drafted a 10-year business plan, which elaborates the vision of Bici-Tec, its scalability, the process to realize this vision and what support is needed from its partners in the North, including Bikes Not Bombs. In a recent interview Carlos told us, “When I decided to start Bici-Tec my plans were really unclear. But Bikes Not Bombs helped me to articulate my plans and vision, and how my business relates to helping families in poverty in Guatemala.” This work would be impossible without our incredible network of individual donors, like you.

Bikes Not Bombs is committed to working with Carlos as he builds Bici-Tec from a small-scale start-up into an established school that will increase access to bicimáquina technology in rural Guatemalan communities. Though it may be a few years before Bici-Tec is able to offer formal classes in bicycle machine technology, the future of this project has already taken root, as Carlos is developing the leaders of bicycle machine technology in Guatemala, and around the world. He envisions a future in which Bici-Tec is self-sustaining, run by people he has trained, and continuing to train more people to design, build and use bicimáquinas. “We want the school to be full of people with the same vision – all with a focus on developing technology and local, indigenous knowledge,” he says. Carlos aims to bring bicycle technology to other countries in Latin America and Africa, and advance a movement of rural development powered by bicycles. Essentially, Carlos will play the role for others that BNB has served for him.

Our work with Carlos is BNB’s “leadership development and support for community self-empowerment” in action, which may be newly articulated in our strategic plan, but has been constant from our beginning. These ideals were the foundation of our first start-up project, a small bike shop and training center in Managua, Nicaragua in 1985. They are the reason we train young people in bike mechanics creating a path to employment, rather than just giving them a bike. And, they are present each time our Bike Shop offers free clinics to customers and community members, rather than seeing every flat tire as an opportunity to charge a fee.

We want you to know that when we ask for financial support for our programs, we are asking for more than just the funds needed to store, repair, and ship bikes. Your donations make it possible for us to continue to develop these long-term partnerships, and to say ‘yes’ the next time someone in the BNB community asks for guidance, support, or training. Please show your support for our work, and the way we do it, by making a generous gift today.

For Bikes Not Bombs,

Jodi Sugerman-Brozan
Executive Director

p.s. Have a question for us about Bici-Tec or Carlos' progress? Ask us on Facebook or Twitter and use #BiciTec