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Ticket to Ride

The wind is blowing through your hair,your trusty bike that’s also your best friend zipping ahead and worries melting into the air.

Written by Dhanya Nair | Published: February 16, 2009 4:17 am

Urban discards and rural needs meet in this unique project that takes donated bicycles,repairs them and changes the way village kids go to school

Picture this:The wind is blowing through your hair,your trusty bike that’s also your best friend zipping ahead and worries melting into the air. That may be a childhood memory most treasure but for children in remote villages,walking is the only mode of transport they know of.

Standard X student Renuka Nimble from Alonda village in Wada taluka,Thane district,is a case in point. For Renuka going to school everyday was nothing short of a challenge. “My school is a long distance from home; I used to take the state transport bus. But timings were a problem,I would usually reach late for class. It was so difficulty,” says Renuka. But last November,her daily life and her views on school changed drastically when she got the best present of her life — a colourful bicycle that she now rides to school every day. “With this cycle,I reach school in half an hour. There is no question of missing the classes. I can also go to other places without depending on anyone,” adds Renuka.

Bringing respite to over a hundred kids like Renuka,The Bicycle Project was started by a city based couple Hemant and Sangeeta Chhabra and their friend Simona Terron. “When my uncle used to travel in the villages,one thing which struck him was how children had to walk miles to reach their schools. Since cutting classes was not an option for them,they would just get up early and walk. Seeing this drudgery,we thought of starting this project,” says Terron.

The group has a simple plan: Collect as many old bikes from the city as available,get them repaired and give them to the kids from villages. So far the group has distributed around 150 bicycles to villages in the Wada and Vikramgarh areas. “Every society in the city has hundreds of unused bicycles as kids have simply outgrown them,” says Hemant. They either buy these for a small price or seek them as donations,recycle them and donate them to the village kids. “Not only do these bicycles get a new lease of life,but underprivileged children also have a sure way of reaching school.”

The bicycles are repainted and re-designed by professional artists. “We give a whole new look to a decrepit bicycle by painting it in spunky colours and designs. In fact,in November we tied up with an Italian artist,Dyana Linda,who painted several bikes along with some school kids from the city,” says Simona.

The group doesn’t want to stop their work only with bicycles.

“We want to bridge the gap between urban waste and rural need. We want these kids to slowly enter the mainstream. Next in line is to expose them to English and computers. We will collect old computers which cannot be upgraded and take them to the villages. Our idea is to give basic knowledge on computers and how they work. We will also tie up with various NGOs across the country and take volunteers to villages who can teach kids basic English. This way we will make our movement a truly pan-Indian one,” says Simona.

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