CHICAGO-- Cycling is changing the lives of thousands of orphans in Africa.
It’s all thanks to two men from Chicago who started an organization that donates bicycles to “Lesotho”– a country plagued by the aids epidemic.
Jeff Teppema, Bikes for Lesotho: “I think the day i really understood the impact was the day we attended a bicycle race.”
“They were on bicycles, many of which we had sent over. That was the moment when i started crying. I was filming the bike race, and it hit me at that moment.”
Cyclists Jeff Teppem and Dave Gorman have set the wheels in motion –
Bringing joy to the children of Lesotho-- a country, where something as common as a bicycle…is few, and far between.
Dave Gorman, Bikes for Lesotho: “These kids are very poor, living in tough conditions, they’ve lost parents in many cases. They have a bike, they can just have fun.”
Teppema and Gorman are the guys behind “Bikes for Lesotho.”
The organization has donated 2,000 used bikes to the developing nation.
And it’s a much-needed boost, for a place where the aids epidemic has left thousands of children without parents.
Jeff Teppema: “It’s a thing that means a lot, to a population where people don’t have a lot of material things, a bicycle is huge.”
Gorman spearheaded the organization in 2012.
He wanted to help Lesotho because of his ties to the region—and his own love for biking.
Dave Gorman: “I had been a peace corp volunteer for three years in the kingdom of Lesotho 25 years ago and have been contact with friends there ever since.
Dave Gorman: “they took care of me for three years. And i found a way to help, even today.”
Teppema and Gorman began accepting donations at “working bikes cooperative” –
A massive warehouse, where used bikes are donated, repaired, and then given to the needy.
Dave Gorman: “As you can see by the mountain of bikes behind me, there are bikes here at working bikes that are ready to go. And as fast as we can pay to ship them off, they have a supply.”
They set up a facebook page to help raise the 20-thousand dollars they needed to ship the bikes some 9-thousand miles overseas.
And bikes for Lesotho sent its first shipment in May of 2013.
Jeff Teppema: “We saw the kids’ reactions when they got bicycles and they were just wide eyed.”
Two months later – Teppema and Gorman embarked on an adventure of a lifetime…
Traveling to Lesotho.
They were warmly welcomed by the proud, new bike owners.
“Poverty doesn’t necessarily mean these are sad kids. They are very joyful and running around and when you come up to them they bubble with excitement. So they are very ready to show you that they’re happy. Hugging you, jumping up and down.”
They rode their own bikes across the mountainous country to spread the word about cycling.
It was a ride that had never been done before.
Dave Gorman: “My dream was to ride my bike around Lesotho and show people who have never seen a bike, let alone touch a bike, that it’s a lot of fun.”
And it’s an adventure for thousands of children, in a county that was once without the joys of cycling …
Thanks to a couple of guys… half the world away.
Jeff Teppema: “I love cycling. For me, cycling is medicine. When i feel down, i get on a bicycle and pedal around and suddenly i feel better.
“The thought of having a whole country filled with kids and no bicycles just absolutely astounded me. So i wanted to be a part of something where kids were getting bicycles.”
Dave Gorman and Jeff Teppema
They’re two of Chicago’s Very Own.
Bikes for Lesotho has sent three shipments of bicycles so far.
And they are hoping to raise enough money to send more bikes this summer.
For more information: https://www.facebook.com/bikesforlesotho