Seventh-grader collects bikes, parts for Botswana
Updated 4:43 pm, Thursday, August 24, 2017
Editor’s note: A previous version stated the Findlays would be accompanying the bikes to Botswana, which was inaccurate and has been removed.
NEW CANAAN — In the driveway of his Ponus Ridge home, Thatcher Findlay was seated at a table, around which bikes of varying size, make and model were fanned out in a semi-circle.
At that time on Aug. 6, Findlay, an incoming 7th-grader at the New Canaan Country School, had collected 51 used bicycles and parts — he would collect an additional 20 before the end of the day — an impressive haul for a pre-teen relatively new to the charitable initiative started four years ago by his older relatives.
“It all started with the four of us, my cousins, Whit, Reed and Brooke —And I joined along with them,” the 12-year-old explained.
Bicycles for Humanity-Boston is the New England branch of the global grassroots movement that seeks to provide bicycles to underserved areas of the world. The Boston chapter was started four years ago by Whit, now 19 and studying at Middlebury College, and Reed, the 16-year-old cycling enthusiast of the group, according to Thatcher’s mother, Kent, and now a senior at Philips Academy Andover.
This year, Thatcher is continuing his work from the previous year — which resulted in a container filled with nearly 500 bicycles delivered to Ramotswa, Botswana — and expanding his role. In addition to arranging pickups of bikes in neighboring towns, Thatcher organized his own collection day and had the idea to set up a vanity email address for the group that he and his cousins all have access to and through which they can coordinate.
“It’s been harder. It’s taking a little while, but it’s been good because we’ve collected all these bikes,” Thatcher said.
Make a donation
To schedule a local pick-up of a new, used or broken bike, or bike parts, please contact Thatcher Findlay at email@example.com or 203-801-5693. For more information, visit b4h-boston.org/.
The Boston chapter operates in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.
Brooke, 14, also held a collection day on Aug. 6 at her Sudburry, Mass. home and has helped to schedule pick-ups and drop-offs. With the last load of 71 bikes Thatcher collected, the 500 needed to fill a container has been met. On Monday, Thatcher made the trip to Sudburry, where for three days he and his cousins will repair and then remove parts of the bikes to save space and ensure no damage to the parts while in transit.
On Aug. 30, the foursome will load the container.
“We load them in and they are transported to Botswana where they are distributed by local, community-based organizations to the people who need them,” explained Thatcher.
In September, the container heads to Botswana and once the bikes are removed from it, the container will be turned into a bike repair shop, or Empowerment Centre.
“If a bike needs repair once it’s there, the people in the receiving community can take it to the Empowerment Centre to be fixed. It’s a self-sustainable program, and that was important to us,” added Whit.
The bikes can cut down commute times and allow parents to carry more wares on their way to market or allow mothers to carry more water back to their village in less time. The commute to school for students, and to areas of need for health care providers, can also be dramatically reduced.
Thatcher said he is not picky in terms of what kind of bikes are donated.
“We take broken bikes, parts, bikes with missing parts — we make them work again. It doesn’t matter to us at all what condition the bike is in. If it’s really old, we break it down for parts. We’ll take anything bike-related including helmets and tools.”
According to Kent, the process if very much under control of the kids.
“From the parents’ perspective, we’re watching them do all this and guiding them slightly, but we don’t answer questions or show them how to do it,” their mother said. “Instead we show them how to find other adults to give them the answers. We’ve watched them fail a lot, and we’ve watched them come back from that failure.
“Our goal as the grown-ups is, through this process of trial and error, to find their strengths, their interests, and most importantly, allow them to learn from failure,” she added.