The Rotary Club of Gravenhurst celebrated the 10,000th bicycle it has been able to purchase for children in Cambodia.
The Rotary Wheels for Learning program was started a decade ago thanks to connections Rotarian Lisa McCoy had in Cambodia. She, along with the Bracebridge Rotary Club, began collecting donations to purchase the bicycles.
“Most of these kids in the rural areas, they live three to five kilometres away from schools and they just can’t attend without the help of a bike,” explains Mike Cole, Chair and Field Coordinator for the program. He adds that the bikes help not just the children, but the entire family, by making it easier for them to buy necessities like food and clothing and do chores.
In 2018, the project was expanded to include renovations made to schools in the area. Cole says they build latrines, wash areas, dig wells, and grow gardens on school property. “It’s a combination of buying bicycles for kids and then helping with school infrastructure as well,” he says.
A get-together was held Thursday morning to celebrate the club purchasing its 10,000th bike. “It’s a great accomplishment, but it’s really only just the beginning,” Cole says. “There’s thousands and thousands of other kids in Cambodia that need our help.”
The bicycles cost $50 Canadian and are purchased through a dealer in Cambodia. Cole says they’ve worked with the person for “years.” After buying the bikes, Cole and a group of 15 to 20 volunteers travel to the area to build the “gently used” bikes and make any needed repairs. Cole adds they also cover the cost of any repairs. He explains they buy used bikes to keep costs low. A new bicycle goes for around $120, Cole says.
Cole says you can donate to the program through CanadaHelps or reach out to the Rotary Club of Gravenhurst if you’re interested in volunteering. He adds that anyone who donates $50 or more will have a picture sent to them of a child with the bicycle their donation helped purchase.