Originally Published: January 2015
In 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami washed across the coastlines of 11 countries, from east Africa to Thailand, leaving devastation in its wake – along with the inspiration to launch World Bicycle Relief. Today, we’re revisiting the impact generated by WBR’s very first bicycle distributions.
Thishanthini first used her bike when she was a community mobilizer for World Vision, which was World Bicycle Relief’s implementing partner for our very first bicycle distribution in 2005. It was Thishanthini’s job to canvass the community to find families with children that could benefit from the support of World Vision. She also monitored 200 sponsored children. Before she had the bike, she could visit five of these families per day. With her bike, she visited ten. Her bicycle also made it possible to visit other mobilizers and villages much farther away, where Thishanthini gained much more knowledge and experience.
The bike Thishanthini received over nine years ago is still in working condition. Her brothers use it to reach their farm 25 kilometers from home. Before they had access to bicycle transportation, Thishanthini’s brothers walked and returned home very late at night carrying small quantities of firewood they had purchased. Now, with a bike, they carry much more wood on the sturdy rack with less need for frequent trips, saving them both time and money.
Thishanthini isn’t the only one to use her bike in her mobilizing work. Pictured are two of her colleagues, Kavitha and Veny, who also enjoy the benefits of bicycling.
Today, Thishanthini is a preschool teacher and proud mother of a 3-year-old son who she predicts will use the same bike for his schooling. Voicing her thoughts for his future, she shared, “You will find, you are not only affecting one generation, you are now affecting many.”
Photos: Leah Missbach Day, Mike Weyerhaeuser
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Written by Leah Missbach Day
Leah is Cofounder of World Bicycle Relief. Whenever she can, Leah spends extended time Africa documenting and sharing the voices of women and girls through her series of photos and stories on World Bicycle Relief’s blog, ‘Voices from the Field”.