Tears, Fears, and Gears - Why Project Bike Love Part 2 - From Erin

            There are days I am overwhelmed with gratitude because of Project Bike Love and there are days I’m so overwhelmed with fear I just cry. Right now we are a couple weeks out from going to Paraguay and the days of gratitude and the days of crying seem to all be the same. I never regret what I am doing and I certainly don’t consider the idea of quitting. I don’t consider quitting because this project isn’t about me. This is much bigger than me.

            I often ask myself “why are you doing this” and I struggle with the answer… Am I working this hard just so I don’t fail and I have to hear everyone say “I told you that you were doing it all wrong” or am I working this hard because I want to succeed? Maybe I work this hard for all the other people involved in Project Bike Love, the people who believe in the project and me. I think there are probably 100 reasons why but what I came to recently is that there is one reason that keeps me going. This isn’t about PBL, it isn’t about the amazing people that support it, and it isn’t about the sponsorships and community. This is about the women in Paraguay. I don’t work for Project Bike Love; I work for Elena and Alicia. I work for the 40 women in Paraguay that are waiting on a life-changing tool! I’m their advocate. I am simply their access to a better life.

            I get worried about asking too much, about bugging people, about annoying people, and I struggle with it every time I ask for support, but I have to remind myself daily that I work for these women. I love all the community around PBL. I love riding my bike, I love marketing, I love talking to people, sharing about it, I love designing t-shirts, hats, stickers, I absolutely love talking about all the possibilities, organizing group rides, whatever it is, I love it! At the end of the day though, I do it all with the intention that my work and involvement in my community here will improve the life of 40 amazing women in Paraguay. 

            So quitting is not an option, it’s not a job. I don’t make any money working for them, I have nothing personally to loose other than maybe my pride or the embarrassment of failure. The truth is, I won’t fail in getting these women bikes, and I’ll sell everything I own before I don’t fulfill on my promise. However, that’s not the point. What Project Bike Love is committed to is building a community of people here that is invested and committed to improving the life of impoverished women around the world. We want to empower them, we want to improve their quality of life, and most importantly we just want them to know there is a whole world out there that cares about them.

            When I worry about my fear of looking bad, or fear of imposing, or any fears I have around asking for support, I have to remember that I’m the access for these women to have an improved life. That has to drive me! I do not want to ask for your money, or your time, or your help; I want to work on my computer, do the marketing, handle our public relations, have inspiring meetings with possible partners and build an amazing brand, because that’s what I know I can do. I guess that’s why I took on this non-paying job for 40 women in Paraguay, to do something I’m afraid of, to really live out there on the skinny branches and feel what it’s like to really have an impact. So bring on the tears and the fears. It’s freaking scary, but it is completely worth it!

-Erin

How the Bicycle Changed Women's Rights (In the Best Way Possible).

Here at Project Bike Love, the bicycle is the most important tool in our efforts to empower women around the world. But did you know that the bicycle even played a key role in women's efforts in America for equal rights in the late 1800's? 

Click on the article image below to see the full story on how the bike changed women's right (and you can bet it'll keep doing so today!).

Source: The Atlantic

Source: The Atlantic

Why Project Bike Love - From Erin

I get asked a lot “Why project bike love?” and “What is it?” I generally give my one 

minute elevator pitch and direct them to the website. It’s never the same elevator 

pitch because at any minute I have a completely different answer to “why Project 

Bike Love?” 

A few months ago someone asked me what PBL was and I answered 

something like “It’s a non-profit I started” and the response I got was an eye roll and 

a “everyone seems to be starting a non-profit these days.” Although he seemed to be 

annoyed at this, I took it as something great. As he eye-rolled at the idea of starting a 

non-profit and how it seemed to be a trend, I was inspired by the trend. “Everyone 

seems to be starting a non-profit these days!!” I say that wide-eyed and excited. I 

love that so many people are trying to make a positive impact on the world that it’s 

becoming an eye-rolling cliché. At the same time I also realized there had to be a 

way to reach these eye-rolling haters and it wasn’t with my overly enthusiastic 

personality and eternally optimistic thinking. I have so many reasons for starting 

PBL and they are all different and evolving. Why it started and why it keeps going 

are always different. Over the last year I’ve thought a lot about these reasons. 

Reasons I told myself, reasons I told people I was comfortable around, reasons I told 

people I was NOT comfortable around, reasons I told potential business partners, 

and so on. I have a hard time defining PBL, is it a non-profit, is it a charity, or is it a 

project? I have a hard time labeling it because it’s so much more than any of those 

things. 

I want to share more deeply about PBL, where it came from, why, and what 

really motivates and inspires me. I had to take a good hard look at what PBL is and 

where it came from. It wasn’t going to grow on it’s own and I’ve generally been the 

person that gives up something once the initial motivation fades away. Like who do I 

think I am trying to impact the world? I gave up over half of everything I ever tried 

when the going got tough. How in the world could I not only inspire others to join 

the cause but keep myself in the cause? I haven’t figured out these answers by any 

means but it does motivate me to keep going. 

Over the last year I had done a lot of “soul searching”. Due to some abrupt 

personal changes in my life, I was left feeling extremely purposeless. I knew I wasn’t, 

but I was just feeling that way so intensely. I had friends and family try to help but of 

course I’m an independent strong woman, so I’ll just do it all by myself, right? I’ll 

figure it out on my own… from my dad’s house… crying every morning… working 

out everyday by myself… binge watch breaking bad… and barely working. It’s 

embarrassing to even admit that but it was the reality of my life at the time. 

I chose that reality because the one I was living in before had to change and 

this was all I had in front of me. I was completely stuck between not wanting to go 

back and not wanting to be where I was. I cried a lot, usually in the morning when I 

woke up to the reality that was my life. I hid it well, I did what I normally do, I put a 

smile on my face and did what I could to be present in my life but I wasn’t. Not even 

close. I was just walking around surviving. I tried to be grateful, I knew I had it good, 

I was lucky to have a father that let me come back in an emergency that I created, 

that I had food, a job, a bike, friends and family that loved me. Compared to a 

majority of the world my life was amazing, but I couldn’t shut up my stupid head 

and be grateful. 

I’ve probably painted a horrible picture of myself, lying in the dark, with 

Kleenex crying myself to sleep but this was far from the truth, there may have been 

moments of that but the reality is I got up every day and I fought for my happiness 

and for my ability to be less self-involved. I volunteered, I took care of my dad, I got 

a coach, I focused on mountain biking, I trained for triathlon, I got an awesome job, I 

was surviving and I was doing it well but I did it all with this pit in my stomach. I just 

hoped it would go away if I just kept doing life. 

I’m a solution-focused person; I don’t want to deal with the problem I just 

want to deal with the solution to the problem. It was working, I was surviving, I was 

moving on, and I was doing a damn good job of rebuilding my life. However I wanted 

more than to survive. I wanted to create a life, a big, purposeful, intentional, 

beautiful, exhausting, full life, but I only knew how to survive. 

I could probably write a book on how I got from that point in my life to where 

I am now but I’ll spare you the novel and give you the cliff notes. 

I realized…

  1. I had no power in any area of my life.
  2. I was the only person responsible for how I felt and how I acted. 
  3. I was so focused on myself. 
  4. I was disconnected from other people.
  5. The pressure I was putting on myself was someone else’s (everybody else’s) idea of what I should be doing. 
  6. The “Fake it till you make it” approach wasn’t working. 

What I had to do different…

  1. I had to give myself a break.
  2. I had to get how small I really was in this big world to realize how powerful I could really be. 
  3. I had to let go.
  4. I had to let myself fail.
  5. I had to be ok with the fact that I couldn’t make everyone happy.
  6. I had to stop measuring my worth through other people’s eyes.
  7. I had to stop comparing myself to everyone else. 
  8. I had to get how absolutely important my word was, not just to other people but also to myself.
  9. Most importantly I had to get that I had this one small, short, amazing life, and I needed to live every minute of it, not just survive.

So how did Project Bike Love come from that? It’s simple, I made a decision that the 

most important thing I could do with my one life was leave the world better than I 

found it. It may seem kind of cheesy but by changing my perception I really changed 

my world. I fell in love with people in a way I never had, I felt connected in a way I 

never had, I realized that we need people to make an impact, I realized I didn’t need 

to worry so much about what everyone thought, I realized it didn’t matter if you 

didn’t like me, I realized so much more than I can write in one blog.

I’ve learned first hand that believing in something so much that failing isn’t 

an option changed who I was; It gave me self confidence I never had, it allowed me 

to walk through self doubt and fear with courage, not that I would succeed but that 

it was ok if I didn’t; it teaches me how to let go, how powerful a community is, that if 

I don’t ask the answers always no, that my problem with you is me, and that we can 

only empower others by lifting them up! In the most basic sense my perception 

changed from I could get from the world into what I could give it.

I chose bikes because of the huge impact the sport has made on my life in so 

many ways and I chose to empower women because that’s what I felt passionate 

about, absolutely EVERYTHING else was created from the community I invited in my 

world, my amazing partner Belen, the beneficiaries, our amazing partners Kara and 

Jesse at Hello Possibilities, my best friends, my cycling buddies, my work, my family, 

and awesome people I share PBL with everyday. Those people are “Why Project 

Bike Love”, it’s about them, and Project Bike Love is for the community to create. I’m 

just the one who will do any and all work necessary to make those visions become 

reality. It isn’t about me, and that’s why I can stay committed, hold myself 

accountable and keep my word because Project Bike Love is for everyone. 

 

Over the last few months I’ve really taken this on as serious as I need to breathe. I 

took “if” out of my vocabulary and everything became possible. This is happening 

and I will fail and I will struggle but it won’t change the reality that this is 

happening.

That’s why they attacked us... - An account of Boko Haram by Belen Rameriz

"That’s why they attacked us... because we opened schools for our children."
"They came in the morning, early in the morning. We were already awake and getting ready to go fishing. We’re fishers, doctor... That’s when we heard the screams. They went to the schools and burned them and then they slaughtered all the teachers.
That’s why we decided to leave. We didn’t want to wait for “the second round” of slaughtering. We crossed different branches of the lake by canoe and we walked through little islands, with our kids and little belongings. It took us 3 days to make it here. We don’t have anything here yet, but we know we’re safe. They won’t come here."
 
THIS IS HAPPENING PEOPLE. I don’t want you to leave your people, your world, or your belongings. I just want you to please know that THIS is happening in places that you will never think they existed.

I love and believe in my organization. If I keep working with MSF after more than 5 years it is because I see one thing: we’re really humanitarians! We’re here for the people, we use our donors money for the people, we don’t have big salaries, big cars and sleep in fancy hotels going from one meeting to the other.

We learned about the displaced population, went to assess the need, and intervened. No big talks, no big meetings, only the important and needing ones, and we were there giving medical care to vulnerable populations.


Last Sunday we were there setting a tent, Maelle and I left the Log Team do the hard work, and we went to play!

We found this group of women who invited us to join them. They told us the story about Boko Haram burning the village. I asked, "are you planning on going back there once it's safe?  Where are the kids going to go to school?" (Naïve me!!)

A woman told me, "NO, it won’t be safe there, they’re hiding in the bushes somewhere. Once the military people are leaving, they will go back.  You see doctor, we thought our kids should be educated, they should learn to read and write, not like us old people. So we work as a community and we build 6 schools for the 11 different islands, and Boko Haram came to attack us!! That’s why they attacked us, because we opened schools for our children."

Life for them is starting over, miles away from home. And they have the strength to push me on the swing they build for the kids to play, and laugh seeing the white doctor flying!!
 
#GetInvolved #GlobalConnection #IseeStrongWomenAllOver #ProjectBikeLove

Why Do We Need an Entire Isle of Cereal?! – Belen in Tchad

Today I was finally able to go running outside the house. I’ve been running around the compound every day since I came to Tchad, well, almost every day. On the last 2 days I’ve been waking up at 4 am with intestinal cramps. Let’s just say 2 months of X-Fit helped me prepare for latrines (Squatting takes a whole other sense!!). So, on the last 2 days, I was out of energy by 6 am, the time to start working out. I managed to at least go out for walks with the team.

Today, on a beautifully chilly (for the locals) Sunday morning, I ran outside the house. Just around the compound, and asked the guard to be outside so I could say Hi, every 2 minutes or so. By the second lap, my neighbors were running with me, at first it was only this one kid, around 10 years old. He said, “I’ll run with you” and he joined me. Then others started running and we ended up having at least 8 people. I love running on the field, kids get so happy to see a woman running; it’s so different for them!! And I have my cheering squat. I would think of them on my Triathlons and my next goal in life, an Ironman.

Running with these kids reminds me why I’m here. Yes, I love being a doctor; I love the work we do with MSF. But the humanitarian world allows me to see the world in a way I couldn’t see it as a world traveler. I don’t like to go to the touristic places. Yeah sure, I have my picture with the Eiffel Tower, but that’s not France! I like to see the real people in their real environments.

The kids were running with flip flops or barefoot, without a care in the world of what they were wearing. So, I didn’t care I was not matching my outfit either. In my real world I would NEVER run with a T-shirt almost to my knee and not “Sport-brands shorts”. Especially if I’m running with friends, pictures will be involved and they will be in social media in no time!!

That’s one of the reasons I’m here, I NEED TO REMEMBER there is this other world, of happy kids running barefoot (not because it’s cool or trendy but because they have no option!). I need to remember that people don’t only use bikes for fun, they use them because it can be the difference between life and death (I’m not exaggerating, bikes are used as Ambulances).

It used to be tough for me to go to my real world. Why do we need a whole aisle of cereal??!!! – Just to give an example. But I’m used to it now, and I decided one of my missions in life would be to share the world; to all my different worlds. Then Erin came into my life and I couldn’t believe when she told me about this dream of hers, Project Bike Love!!

I’m in Tchad now, and when I’m not working at the hospital I go around the neighborhood. I play with the kids and I always have pictures of my family and friends with me. The most difficult part is having to explain that I use my bikes for the fun of it. Then I decided I would say I only have one bike!

I will be sharing stories from here, maybe bikes are not the best tool to give them, but I started today by telling my new friend that by the end of my mission I would give him my running shoes, as long as he runs with me every day. His big white smile was amazing and he kept telling everyone I would give him my running shoes! I couldn’t help to feel bad inside, I was going to buy a new pair anyhow and put these ones on the donation box. But you don’t need to do huge things, and that’s what I want to share with you today. You can volunteer your time and help, or you can make donations to different organizations. With Project Bike Love you can rely on the fact that you will know who’s getting the bike and how you’re helping her improve the quality of her life. And if you want to push a little on the limits of going out of your comfort zone, you can join us on an amazing trip to the heart of South America and Paraguay at the end of the year!

I can promise you a lot of fun and an eye-opening experiences from the hand of a local girl!

Belen from Tchad

Hello World!

Welcome to the official blog of Project Bike Love!

Project Bike Love organizes events around the world bringing together people, bikes and fun to raise funds to support our mission and educate the public on the magical gift that a bike can be. With those funds, we provide women and girls with bikes made in their local community and delivered by Project Bike Love ambassadors.

We are looking forward to sharing our thoughts and experiences with everyone one of you. Stay tuned for some awesome stuff!