2006.03.12: March 12, 2006: Headlines: COS - Ecuador: Service: Bicycles: NGO's: Home News Tribune: Ecuador RPCV Dave Schweidenback's Pedals for Progress rolls along in 15th year

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ecuador: Peace Corps Ecuador : The Peace Corps in Ecuador: 2006.03.12: March 12, 2006: Headlines: COS - Ecuador: Service: Bicycles: NGO's: Home News Tribune: Ecuador RPCV Dave Schweidenback's Pedals for Progress rolls along in 15th year

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Ecuador RPCV Dave Schweidenback's Pedals for Progress rolls along in 15th year

Ecuador RPCV Dave Schweidenback's Pedals for Progress rolls along in 15th year

Founded by Schweidenback in 1991, the organization's premise is based on his theory: "To sustain an economy, you must increase the speed of movement of goods and services," he said Wednesday from his Glen Gardner warehouse, which consists of six trailers filled with 500 bikes, thousands of bike accessories, half a dozen sewing machines and a makeshift loading dock.

Ecuador RPCV Dave Schweidenback's Pedals for Progress rolls along in 15th year

Pedals for Progress rolls along in 15th year
Home News Tribune Online 03/12/06
By GIOVANNA FABIANO
GANNETT NEW JERSEY

HIGH BRIDGE As a Peace Corps volunteer in the late 1970s, Dave Schweidenback worked in Ecuador's Amazon basin as a land surveyor in a rural village called Sucua. It was the kind of pristine place where he could pitch his tent under the stars each night and see monkeys jumping from tree to tree and white dolphins frolicking in the nearby river.


Despite its indescribable beauty, work was hard to come by in the village, and most inhabitants lived off their own crops and livestock.

But the most productive individual by far was a man named Cesar Pena, the only person in town who owned a bicycle.

Eleven years after Schweidenback left Sucua for High Bridge, Pena would become the inspiration behind Pedals for Progress, an organization that provides underprivileged people in Third World countries with a means of transportation.

Founded by Schweidenback in 1991, the organization's premise is based on his theory: "To sustain an economy, you must increase the speed of movement of goods and services," he said Wednesday from his Glen Gardner warehouse, which consists of six trailers filled with 500 bikes, thousands of bike accessories, half a dozen sewing machines and a makeshift loading dock.

Yesterday, the organization planned to celebrate its 15th anniversary with an awards ceremony honoring a long list of dedicated volunteers, at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg.

Pedals for Progress, which has collected and shipped more than 95,000 bicycles since it began, has grown significantly over the years, holding donation drives along the East Coast, from the upper tip of North Carolina to Massachusetts.

After each collection, the bikes are shipped to countries such as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Uganda for use by individuals who have no cars or motorcycles.

"I've always approached this as an economic development program. You've got to use what you've got, and the wheel is mankind's greatest invention," said Schweidenback. "You can hold a job once you have something to get there with," he said.

That's why, aside from bikes, Pedals for Progress is now collecting sewing machines. While the wheel gets you to your job, the sewing machine creates a job, he said.

Inside the warehouse, a few of the machines were an antique lover's dream - old Singers with intricate gold-leaf designs, a key to lock up a cabinet or carrying case, and the original manuals, one of which was from 1913.

"This is the reallocation of wealth from people who no longer need it to those who can make a living out of it. We're allowing people to help themselves," said Schweidenback.

The organization holds bike drives every weekend in the spring and fall. Any volunteer organization, including Scouts, Rotary, and religious groups, are welcome to host a collection.

Schweidenback asks that anyone who plans on donating a bike give $10 to help with shipping costs.

After the bikes are collected, volunteers help remove the pedals and "flatten" the bikes, which are placed in boxes along with accessories, including tires and inner tubes, donated by corporate sponsors. The boxes are then shipped to partnering agencies in the participating countries, and sold at a fraction of their actual cost.

After the bikes are collected, volunteers help remove the pedals and "flatten" the bikes, which are placed in boxes along with accessories, including tires and inner tubes, donated by corporate sponsors. The boxes are then shipped to partnering agencies in the participating countries, and sold at a fraction of their actual cost.

The bikes range from Specialized and Trek mountain bikes to an old banana seat style. Since bikes will usually remain sturdy for several years, Schweidenback isn't picky - he'll take anything, as long as it's not rusty.

"Bikes can last for 50 years, as long as you don't keep them out in the rain," he said.





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Story Source: Home News Tribune

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ecuador; Service; Bicycles; NGO's

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