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88Bikes Foundation brings joy and self-esteem to thousands of girls across Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America.
In 2006, Dan Austin and his brother, Jared, took a bike trip across Cambodia. Seeing firsthand the extent of the poverty overwhelming the country, and recognizing the difference that a bicycle could make, they decided to donate their touring bikes to charity at the end of the trip.
When they arrived at the Palm Tree Orphanage in Phnom Penh, there were 88 girls there, most of them survivors of human sex trafficking. So Dan and Jared, along with a friend, Nicolas Arauz, returned to the US, started an online fundraising campaign, and reached their donation target in two weeks. In January 2007, they returned to Palm Tree Orphanage with 88 bikes.
Since then, the non-profit group, working with NGO partners, has donated upwards of 5,000 new bikes to girls across Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America – children impacted by war, poverty, and disease. Often the most grateful are those who had been forced into sex slavery. “A girl once told me that the bike was the only thing that had ever made her feel equal to men,” said Dan Austin. “’It makes me feel like I’m worth it’, she said, ‘that I’m valuable.’”
A writer and filmmaker from Seattle, WA, Austin now spends most of his time getting more bikes to more girls. Each bike is hand delivered by a member of the 88Bikes team. Austin alone handed out about 600 of the 1,200 endowed bikes in 2014. He calls his work joy-based philanthropy, in the belief that happiness is a human need and that the donated bikes bring these young women happiness and a chance to transcend their difficult conditions. “We want to see our girls looking forward instead of backwards … and the bike is a gift that can bring happiness.”
This article is part of our week-long coverage of global bike-based organizations changing the world two wheels at a time. Check out 10 Great Cycling Organizations to see more of their inspiring wok.