“This bike is a path to pursue my dreams.”
We met Belinda the day she first received her new Buffalo Bicycle. Her family’s home, in a remote village of La Guajira, Colombia, is miles away from the nearest paved road.
On the way to meet her, before dawn, our vehicle got stuck in the mud – the aftermath of a desert deluge that dropped days prior. After six of us were not able to dislodge the truck, we called for backup and walked the remainder of the way. Even the early hour and in the wake of rain, the heat was getting oppressive.
Belinda regularly experiences these tough conditions. Even so, it’s a struggle for her to make it to class regularly.
Before leaving for school, she prepares the family’s food for the day. Her school is 5km from home, a distance she normally walks in the midday sun. On top of punishing heat, “The walk to school is not safe,” she says. “Especially in the evenings on the way home.”
Occasionally, when available, Belinda and her brother share a neighbor’s old, rusty bike. But having a bicycle of their own, built to weather these rural trails, will make all the difference.
Belinda’s brother goes to school in the morning and Belinda in the afternoon – so both will enjoy the benefits of their new wheels. Plus, Belinda will now be able to ride home after school before it gets dark.
Today is the last day she will have to make that long walk.
Belinda was one of 1,800 students at her school receiving Buffalo Bicycles. The schools in her district have so many students because they are few and far between – students travel incredible distances to reach them. Younger and older students attend the same schools, hence the rotating schedules.
After a busy and exciting day of food and festivities at the bicycle distribution, we sat down with Belinda to hear how she feels about having her own wheels.
“My mother was so proud when she found out I would receive a bicycle,” she says. “I know I will be able to come to school more with the bicycle. I can promise that.”
Belinda has dreams of becoming a psychologist. Previously, she had a really tough time and was given access to a visiting school counselor. The interaction made a big impact on her. “I want to give that same confidence to other girls, like she gave me.”
When asked about other future plans, Belinda was frank. “I don’t want to get married,” she says, “at least not for a long time. So many girls my age get married and have a family very young. It’s ok, but I don’t want that for my life.”
Belinda had a gripping stare from the moment we met her. Now, after just a few hours of this life-changing day, she looked like someone who had discovered a new layer of herself.
“I think it’s a good idea to give bicycles to students,” she said with those intense eyes fixed. “This bike is a path to pursue my dreams.”