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Bikes for Education: You Can Change a Kid’s Life

Veterans For Peace Chapter 160 is now collecting funds for the next bike distribution!

“The delivery of these bicycles to remote, frontier areas, it is not just life enhancing, it’s life changing.”

A delegation of the Veterans For Peace Chapter 160 traveled throughout Central Viet Nam during April 2021 and distributed a total of 175 bicycles to 10 schools. Focusing on the city of Hue and Quang Tri Province, the VFP 160 Bikes for Education team delivered new bicycles to children who count on these bikes as their sole transportation to and from school.

This delivery represents an especially important event for the students of a region battered by devastating typhoons in an abnormally stormy 2020 season. Difficult-to-access communities in rural and frontier regions that were already contending with poverty suffered significant flooding. The typhoons impacted the daily lives of many families, who saw their homes and neighborhoods destroyed overnight. Among their losses of many basic, domestic necessities were children’s bicycles, swept away in the floods.

VFP160 responded to the affected communities’ requests for assistance. Consistently, educators at every school emphasized the importance of bicycles as a direct factor in improving education attainment by simply making the journey to school a little bit easier for kids. With some children living 6 or more miles (9+ km) from their schools, the loss of a bike is a significant obstacle to attending classes. For most of the kids in these areas, bicycles are critical for them to continue access to their educations, simply by getting to school on time.

“The delivery of these bicycles to remote, frontier areas, it is not just life enhancing, it’s life changing,” emphasized David E. Clark, Secretary/Treasurer of VFP160.

Bikes for Education is a new project to further promote the mission of the VFP160 chapter. Originally the Inside Vietnam Peace tours program was an opportunity for VFP160 members and friends to tour Vietnam with stops at schools throughout the country. Visitors on these tours contribute to a collective fund and, by consensus, then distribute resources to be shared on multiple projects, like bicycles for kids.

Members of the VFP 160 Bikes for Education 2021 delegation made new friends and along the way have learned more about how these communities are educating new generations.
As the team were winding our way throughout the mountains delivering bicycles, it was a real honor being invited into the schools.
Some schools welcomed the delegation with grand, school-wide celebrations bringing students together to listen, cheer and celebrate the bicycle delivery.
Other schools chose to celebrate the events quietly by hosting small personal gatherings amongst students, families and members of school leadership serving tea.
Many times, it was an opportunity for participants to share their stories about surviving the typhoons.
The program that has become Bikes for Education started informally around 2009, when a group of Vietnam Veterans, friends, and family, responding to a word-of-mouth campaign raised enough to purchase and distribute about 200 bicycles annually.

David Clark remembers when a conversation with a friend became a donation of 10 bicycles from that VFP chapter, and then there were 20 bikes, and so on. He found himself receiving resources from people all over the US and internationally, to purchase bikes and simple safety gear like reflective tape for night time cycling.

“They contacted us to ask if we were coming this year,” Clark shared.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic and limits on international travel this previous year, VFP160 members in country were still able to purchase and efficiently distribute 175 quality bicycles and safety gear. Clark assures, “The donations of bicycles and updated safety equipment will benefit the children of these areas for years to come. “

As a delegation of former military members and friends, VFP160 members are developing a better understanding of the challenges to domestic life for people in the Viet Nam countryside. Bikes for Education is one of the ways to work directly with the people of these regions to support and benefit them even as they are still living with the legacies of the American War in Viet Nam.

We were provided an up-close view of how these small towns and villages are coping not only with Viet Nam’s past, but its current growth and development. Critical contributions from groups like VFP160 members, allies and friends, directly support rural populations with the tools they need to build a brighter future.

“In a way this is a chance to make personal amends. Before, I was a very, very small part of a big problem, now I’m a very, very small part of a big solution,” said Clark.

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