World Bicycle Relief’s assembly facilities are key to building sustainable infrastructure in the regions where we work. They serve as hubs for our bicycle distributions, as well as a source of economic opportunity for the local communities.
Our newest facility in Barranquilla, Colombia, employs local assemblers who have been specially trained to work with our rugged Buffalo Bicycles.
Beyond their vital assembly work, our local teams also offer valuable insight into the areas we serve. This information allows us to customize our programming to fit the needs of the region.
Meet a few of our newest assemblers in Barranquilla, Colombia!
Darlington Rafael leaves his home in Soledad at 6:30 each morning to catch the bus and reach World Bicycle Relief’s assembly facility by 8:30 a.m. But the commute is worth it.
“By living in my parents’ home, I am able to save money while helping them out,” says Darlington, 20. “After I pay my parents, I am able to save about USD $37 each month. After working for another 4 or 5 years, I’ll be able to pay for my studies!”
Darlington specializes in assembling the mudguards, brakes and shifters on Buffalo Bicycles. And despite issues with his heart and an elongated tendon in one of his arms, he’s thriving.
“The guys on the assembly floor said – and I couldn’t believe it – ‘You are doing well on your path. How can you build the tires with that arm?’ Now, I am learning how to true the wheels! I’ve got this. I know I am going to make it.”
Darlington has big goals. In addition to going back to school, he dreams of traveling to Spain and Brazil. He also hopes to turn his interest in international travel into a business one day, importing spare parts and selling them locally.
“After 5 years of education, my life will change. I see this job as a way forward,” says Darlington.
“I feel that my main goal, to study and become a businessman, is now reachable!”
Carmelo de Jesus Rodriguez Zambrano, a 23-year-old father of three, worked as a bicycle mechanic for six years before becoming an assembler for World Bicycle Relief.
Carmelo lives in his mother’s small home outside of Barranquilla along with his wife, their two children, 4 and 7, his wife’s child, and his two young brothers.
“I would have liked to be a lawyer and do office work, but my fate was in mechanics,” says Carmelo, who left school in the 6th grade to support his family.
At his previous job, mechanics didn’t receive a salary. Instead, they were paid piecemeal for service repairs or add-on installations made with the purchase of a new bike. Now, as an assembler for World Bicycle Relief, Carmelo earns regular wages and benefits.
“I would like my children to do their studies and for my daughter to become a doctor,” he says. “My dream is to pay for her education myself. This is a good job.”
Marcelino Manotas, 32, has been spoking wheels since he was 14 years old.
He was forced to drop out of school in the 10th grade because his family could no longer afford the $50 annual fee.
“Some students get scholarships. My two brothers and I were not amongst them,” Marcelino says.
After working for years as a baker, spoking bicycles and attending night school to become a mechanic, Marcelino is thrilled with his new position at World Bicycle Relief as an assembler.
“This work is formal, a consistent job, which is really good for me. I want security and to provide for my family,” says Marcelino, a father of 5. Unlike his last job at a local bike shop, this position comes with a steady paycheck and benefits. His hard work is finally paying off.
Luis Angel Zapata had no experience assembling bicycles before starting at World Bicycle Relief.
Luis, 20, had been in his 3rd year of studying banking and finance when he and his girlfriend found out they were expecting a baby.
“I am so close to being finished but I have got to take care of the baby,” says Luis, who lives in Soledad with his parents, sister, brother and girlfriend. With his new job, Luis ensures that his girlfriend and baby receive regular checkups and care.
Luis’ father is a butcher. His mother sells disposable utensils, plates and cups. They expect Luis to contribute to the household expenses each month until Luis and his girlfriend can afford their own place.
Despite initially finding Buffalo Bicycles “a little bit odd” because of the mudguard and carrier, Luis says that he now sees how life-changing they can be for students and health workers, and understands the appeal. Plus, he enjoys the atmosphere of the assembly facility, where everyone works well together.
As for going back to school, Luis says, “I don’t know when, but to finish is my goal.”
“When I wake up, I feel a big challenge inside. I want to be there for my kid and I also want to develop myself. Both things will make me a better person.”
Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our assembly facility in Colombia has temporarily paused production. Our assemblers are instead, with the proper safety precautions, assisting with the distribution of bicycles to our COVID partners in the region.