Bikes Without Borders

Bikes Without Borders is a Toronto-based charitable organization that uses bikes as a tool for development and social change, addressing issues of poverty, education and healthcare. Together we can change the world, one bike at a time... VISIT US
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"We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel" - Dietrich Bonhoeffer



(via ddwvision)

An illiterate grandmother from a small village in Malawi, Stella, found it hard to imagine the future that lay ahead when she arrived at the Barefoot College of India.

Six months later she emerged as one of 25 trained African solar engineers. Her mission: to electrify her home village using renewable energy sources.

“I never imagined that technical knowledge like this would be open to women who were illiterates, like us,” she reflected at the end of her training in Tilonia, in the state of Rajasthan. “But coming to Tilonia has given us this confidence that we can learn about new things and make our lives better.”

By collaborating with the Barefoot College and its NGO partners, UN Women is supporting a programme to empower marginalized women across the world, and help them start to drive their local green economies.

The programme, running since 2004, teaches engineering skills to illiterate older women from rural communities – a particularly vulnerable age group worldwide– before equipping them with solar lamp kits to assemble and install in their own and neighbouring villages.

During this training session which began in September 2011, women travelled from across Africa, from countries like Uganda Liberia and South Sudan, to take part. Each were selected or nominated by their local community and supported by a variety of local and international organisations, and in some cases, their governments.

The purpose of the training is to empower the women, many who have laboured in agricultural work their whole lives, to gain a skill more age appropriate, while affording them a new position and respect from the community.

Bawor Mamma, for example, has spent years recovering from the lingering effects of civil war and economic dislocation in Liberia. At 53 she prefers assembling solar lanterns to the physical strain of agricultural work. “I am not just a farmer like everyone else,” she said with a clear sense of pride. “I am a solar engineer now and I want to electrify my village and other neighbouring villages.”

“What Barefoot College has effectively demonstrated is how the combination of traditional knowledge (barefoot) and demystified modern skills can bring lasting impact and fundamental change when the tools are in the control and ownership of the rural poor,” says Dr Bunker Roy, the Director of the Barefoot College.

Yet the transition is a challenge for many women, who came from different cultural background, customs and languages. Their trainers, who mostly speak Hindi, cut across linguistics barriers using gestures and signs.

“In the beginning, many women face problems, since it is the first time they have left their children and village,” says Leela Devi, a teacher in the solar engineering department. “But we have to be like their sisters, and constantly remind them of the advantages of being here and learning solar engineering.”

The women are also supporting a greener form of energy usage. Many live in villages without any electricity at all, where kerosene usage is high. Yet kerosene is not a sustainable resource, nor is it cheap or healthy; and villagers can stand in line for hours waiting to buy it.

To ensure the sustainability of the project, the women are also taught how to train other villagers in the maintenance of these lamps, and encouraged to set up electronics repairs shops, which will generate an income.

In the span of six months, women of many educational backgrounds, experiences and nationalities have transcended their geographical and cultural boundaries and emerged as leaders, change-makers for their communities, and most importantly – as self sustaining solar engineers.

Most of us have heard of the international NGOs Doctors Without Borders and Engineers Without Borders, and you might know about Reporters Without Borders. But what about Monks Without Borders? Or Clowns? Here’s a list of borderless organizations you really should hear about.

1. Bikes Without Borders

Bikes Without Borders is a Canadian non-profit group that travels the world distributing bicycles to developing communities. They operate under the assumption that something really small – two wheels, two pedals and a set of gears – can help people do some really big things, like access health care, go to school and start businesses.

2. Astronomers Without Borders

The California-based group Astronomers Without Borders is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a group of idealistic star-gazers who travel around bringing knowledge about the night sky to people all over the world, “regardless of earthly differences in culture, nationality or religion.” If we’re busy looking up, pointing and gasping appreciatively, we can’t start wars, right?

3. Burners Without Borders

Burners Without Borders is a small but eccentric troop of do-gooders—all of whom have attended Burning Man, an annual carnival in the Nevada desert—who travel the world, from Peru to Botswana, promoting “radical self-expression” and “self-reliance” in developing communities.

4. Chemists Without Borders

You wouldn’t think chemists need much more than a windowless lab and an endless supply of beakers to get their work done, but think again: Chemists Without Borders brings scientists to developing communities, where they provide mentoring and information to help people access safe water, create sustainable energy supplies and deal safely with hazardous chemicals.

5. Clowns Without Borders

Clowns Without Borders is no joke. This goofy, San Francisco-based group of jesters trips, pratfalls and pogo-sticks all around the world, to refugee camps, conflict zones and crisis areas—from Haiti to India, from Colombia to Burma—to bring laughter, circus performances and, yes, big red plastic noses, to children who need some levity.

6. Kangaroo Without Borders
Kangaroo Without Borders has, unfortunately, nothing to do with transporting bounding marsupials across national boundary lines. Instead, this group of math-loving Australians spend their spare time organizing mathematics competitions for young people all around the world—who then, presumably, bound marsupial-like into brighter futures.

7. Geeks Without Borders

From its home base in Eugene, Oregon, Geeks Without Borders accepts donations of old computers and other technologies and then distributes them to orphanages, schools and other organizations around the world, where people wouldn’t otherwise have access to such life and career-changing tools.

8. Words Without Borders

Words Without Borders, run by a small cadre of literary activists, publishes stories written by international authors from every race and creed, in order to connect wordsmiths with one another and foster a “global literary conversation.”

9. Pirates Without Borders

Yar! Pirates Without Borders is a loose gang of likeminded mates who believe in “free knowledge, free culture” and “free software” — and are willing to “sail the seven seas” of the internet pillaging pay walls and pirate patented products as they go.

10. Monks Without Borders

As in the case of the chemists, you wouldn’t think monks need much more than a quiet slab of cold floor and a sweet haircut to get the job done, but Monks Without Borders will have you know otherwise. This motley team of “monks, nuns, priests, rabbis, swamis, imams, and clergy members from all the world’s religious traditions” travel the world promoting non-violence and interfaith cooperation wherever they go.

Why Invest In Women?

Bikes Without Borders has partnered with YONECO to help strengthen global connections to local Malawian communities. Partnering with YONECO allows resources (access to information, pharmaceuticals, transportation, etc.) to be maximized with the establishment of effective working relationships by YONECO. 

Goal: To increase the health of Malawians and to contribute towards the reduction of the spread of HIV infection, mitigating the impact of AIDS to promote quality care for the infected and infected.

Purpose: To promote self-seliance in material and psychological support, empowering and active participation of care givers, orphans and vulnerable children, the aged and other vulnerable groups in reducing the spread of HIV infection and mitigating the impact of AIDS.

• To promote quality care within the home setting
• To enhance communities commitment to responding to the needs of infected and affected
• To reduce stigma and discrimination for the affected and infected
• To develop effective monitoring and evaluation systems for the home-based care programme

(Kachulu Health Centre visit with Fresco, the Health Worker extraordinaire)

• Life skills development for the orphans, people living with AIDS, volunteers and care givers at community level.
• Comprehensive health education programme on HIV/AIDS issues and other related issues at community level.
• Screening for HIV/AIDS and TB
• Community care of people living with HIV/AIDS, old people, chronically ill, orphans and other vulnerable groups at local level

(HIV/AIDS workshop literature for Community Health Volunteers.)


Around the world, one woman dies every minute during childbirth, yet almost all of these deaths are preventable.  Malawi has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world.

In 2001, the UN set a goal to decrease maternal mortality by 75% by 2015, but it is nowhere near meeting that target.

Our Phase 2 in Malawi, will support Community Healthcare Volunteer Workers delivering vital health services. We will have an increased focus to address issues of maternal health, providing them with new bikes and providing community health organizations with bike ambulances (which CHWs can sign out and use as needed). 

In a country where a staggering number of women die in child birth, the BBC’s Karen Allen discovers one Malawian village where a novel solution – a bicycle ambulance – has apparently helped to wipe out the problem.” – BBC news

Information session for expecting mothers

How you can be part of the solution: 
1. Spread the word - tell your friends about the issues and the project so that there is more awareness in different communities and professional fields.
2. Brainstorm ideas - discuss possible solutions and share your ideas with friends, family & coworkers. Sharing knowledge helps start meaningful discussions in the community
3. Volunteer and attend BWB events - to be a part of something meaningful and meet like-minded people from different fields. Every volunteer makes a huge difference.
4. Donate, because funds are always needed - a replacement set of tires for a Community Health Worker in Malawi costs $50, a new bike for a CHW is $150, and a bike ambulance (wheeled stretcher that attaches to a bike) for a community in Malawi is $450

To know more about the Pedal Powered Hope Project visit

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4 Dec 2011
A bad thing:
Decades of neglect, a failing health system and remote mountainous topography have created a “crisis in maternal health” in Papua New Guinea, where some 250 women are still dying for every 100,000 live births.
Read more:


4 Dec 2011

A bad thing:

Decades of neglect, a failing health system and remote mountainous topography have created a “crisis in maternal health” in Papua New Guinea, where some 250 women are still dying for every 100,000 live births.

Read more: on We Heart It.

William Kamkwanga invented a windmill in his Malawian village - a true hero on We Heart It.

Bike and CareCar distribution to a women’s group

Photos of Bikes Without Borders on We Heart It.

HOME - a film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

We are living in exceptional times. Scientists tell us that we have 10 years to change the way we live, avert the depletion of natural resources and the catastrophic evolution of the Earth’s climate. The stakes are high for us and our children. Everyone should take part in the effort, and HOME has been conceived to take a message of mobilization out to every human being. Home is a non-profit film. HOME has been made for you : share it! And act for the planet.

Visit for more information


The key to happiness


The key to happiness

Together we can change the world, one bike at a time…