At this year's Interbike show, I managed to get a few minutes with Hans Rey to talk about his Wheels4life.org
Most people know mountain bike hall of famer Hans as a trials champion, adventure cyclist, and one of the most recognizable GT riders for over 20 years. For those not aware, he is also the driving force behind Wheels4life, a non-profit program with partners around the world that work very hard to provide bicycles to those that need them the most.
What many of us view as a piece of sporting equipment, fitness equipment, or hobby, is actually a life-changing tool that can break the chain of poverty in a third world country. With the simple bicycle, it's possible to travel up to five times faster than walking, while at the same time, up to five times more cargo can be carried as well. This can mean reducing travel time to and from school, carrying more goods to market, or bringing medical supplies to more remote locations.
The whole operation itself is an extremely lean one. Because everyone is a volunteer (Hans even pays all his travel expenses out of his own pocket) 90-95% of the donations received go directly towards the purchase of bicycles. Where possible, they source the bikes locally, which reduces expenses such as freight, import duties, and various taxes. As an added bonus, this not only helps the local economy, but makes it easier to locate spares and service the bikes.
While Hans explained that they certainly appreciate cash donations, he also urges anyone with time to spare to organize a fundraiser, volunteer their time, or even just help spread the word with posts such as this.