Mark Pate with some of the bicycles at his Bangalow home.
Mark Pate with some of the bicycles at his Bangalow home.

Fight to get bikes where needed

Mark Pate has about 100 bicycles under his Bangalow house, another 300 in a shed at Talofa and ‘a couple of thousand’ in storage in Sydney.


Getting hold of bikes and bringing them up to scratch, it would seem, is relatively easy for him.


But getting them to the people who really need them in developing countries, which is his aim, is a whole lot tougher.


There’s red tape to get through and then there’s the cost of shipping the bikes – a major hurdle.


He relies on donations to the Australian Goodwill Bicycles Abroad charity he established with his partner, Jenny Clarke, to cover those costs, which can be substantial.


The couple started collecting bikes in 1999 when living in Darwin and after talking to East Timorese people there about their needs back home.


Since then, they have sent about 7000 bikes to East Timor and 3000 to other developing countries including the Solomon Islands and Ghana and also to Aboriginal groups in the Alice Springs area, with transport costs covered by donations.


More than 400 bikes will soon be sent to Borneo, with the transport costs being met thanks to the fund-raising efforts of a Queensland Energex worker in Brisbane.


Mark went to East Timor and the Solomons where he trained locals how to repair and maintain bicycles and he may be going to Borneo to do the same thing.


He said the project’s aim was to establish self-sustaining bicycle repair facilities employing local people and to give people in developing countries greater mobility.


“A simple bicycle can mean that a person can travel to another village for work, or to use it as a vehicle to transport goods to the market,” he said.


“Mobility is a crucial factor in people’s lives. It can mean the difference between misery and a decent life.


“The bicycle is an ecological, efficient, economical vehicle. It can carry 10 times its own weight.


“It runs on muscle power rather than fuel.


“Bicycles are adaptable to dirt roads and particularly useful in rural areas.”


The couple get requests for bikes just about every week from developing countries, including India and Cambodia.


“That’s the hard part,” said Mark.


“I’m saying ‘I’ve got the bikes, but I can’t get them to you’.


“It all comes down to money at the end of the day.”


Mark is always looking for volunteers who can give him a hand to repair bikes and he is also looking for somewhere locally where he can put all the bikes under the one roof.


Anyone who can help out in that department, or who wants to make a donation to Australian Goodwill Bicycles Abroad – money or bikes – can call Mark on 6687 1759 or email goodwill_bicycles@yahoo.com.au.


For more information go to www.goodwillbicycles.com


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