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5935: Used bicycles can mean hope for people in Haiti (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Published: Friday, November 24, 2000 ASSOCIATED PRESS  
Used bicycles can mean hope for people in Haiti

Jim Rolbiecki's bicycle shop is lined with multispeed colorful bicycles
that cost from several hundred dollars up to $2,000 or more, depending
on the shock absorbers, gears, brakes and other equipment. Out back of
Rolbiecki's Riverside Bike and Skate showroom there's a different kind
of display. The bikes there might include a 20-year-old Raleigh, a
slightly banged-up Huffy or a nearly obsolete 10-speed Schwinn.Some
might call it the scrap heap, but it's a dream come true for people in
the impoverished West Indies nation of Haiti. About three years ago,
Rolbiecki realized that the bicycles of little resale value that he
takes in trade might be in demand in Haiti.It got to the point I had
more used bikes than people wanting to buy them,'' he said. ``What do
you do when the bikes are no longer in demand? I was scrapping them out.
I had 1,100 pounds of bike frames one year.He was familiar with Haiti
because his wife, Jane, had been involved in mission work there since
1980 through Sacred Heart Haiti Mission of Rochester, Minn., and the
Mission of Mercy of  Minneapolis. So Rolbiecki unofficially opened the
Haiti Division of his bike shop. He began setting aside unwanted
bicycles and shipping them to Florida at a cost to him of $25 a
bike.They were loaded on a ship and taken to Haiti.Now, more than 75
bikes later, his export department still is  busy, although he and his
wife take the bikes to Rochester,where they end up as part of a larger
shipment of goods that go either from Rochester or Minneapolis to
Florida and then to Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti.``We do real
minor things to them. We put them in a bike box,and away they go. It's
mostly 10-speed, 27-inch bikes,''Rolbiecki says.Something as simple as a
bicycle can bring hope in impoverished Haiti, a mountainous nation of 8
million people on the island of Hispaniola off the southern tip of Cuba.
The other half of the island is the wealthier Dominican Republic. ``A
father can ride a bike 20 miles to work, but he can't walk 20 miles,''
Rolbiecki says. A bike also makes education possible for some children
who may have too far to walk to school.Jane Rolbiecki has been in Port
au Prince when the bikes were unloaded, along with other donations, such
as medical supplies,clothing, tools, building supplies, toys and school
supplies.Bikes are among the most sought-after items, she said.