Archive for February, 2010

David Schweidenback Uses Bikes To Lift People Out of Poverty in Underdeveloped Countries

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
Working to eradicate poverty

Working to eradicate poverty

For those who have not read this blog before, I will introduce you to a new concept called JUNOON. This is an Arabic/Persian word that defines the hypnotic zeal of extraordinary people such as Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Madam Curie, and others who have influenced and dramatically changed the lives of not just of hundreds, or thousands, but of millions of people.

Every time I think I’ve seen it all, someone comes along to shake me out of my complacency. Someone like CNN Hero, David Schweidenback. For the last 18 years, he’s devoted his life to sending used bikes to people in underdeveloped countries tolift them out of poverty. .

I know what you’re thinking. Bikes eradicating poverty? No way. That’s what I thought, until I had the pleasure of talking with him recently. Believe it or not, Schweidenback rescues bikes, many of them like new, that would otherwise be headed for garbage dumps and gets people to donate bikes to him.

As word has spread and people have begun giving him bikes, his organization, Pedals for Progress, has grown beyond anything he had expected. In 1991, the first year of operations, Schweidenback shipped 2,400 bikes. The second year, he shipped 4,800 bikes. And by 2009, Pedals for Progress had shipped more than 124,724 bikes to impoverished people in 32 countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

If he sounds like a child of the 60s to you, you’re right. In a surge of altruism, he completed a stint in the Peace Corps back when John F. Kennedy was president. Schweidenback worked in the tiny, poverty-ridden town of Succua as a land surveyor for the Federacion Shuar, an organization of the Shuar Indians in the Amazon basin of Ecuador and Peru.

He noticed that everyone in Succua walked wherever they went, except for one man, a carpenter, by the name of Cesar Peňa. He had what nobody else in Succua had – a bicycle. In fact, he had the only one within 500 miles.

He saw how well off Cesar Peňa was in this backward town. He was a land owner, and compared to everyone else in Succua, he was Donald Trump. Schweidenback realized that besides having a solid work ethic, the secret to Peňa’s success was his bike. He had wheels to get to and from where he wanted to go.

If the other townspeople wanted to go somewhere, they either had to walk or wait for the buses that rolled through town only twice a day.

This was a spark of Pure Inspiration. Here’s how I describe such an experience in my book, Driven: A How-to Strategy for Unlocking Your Greatest Potential:

It’s as if your entire brain sparks with illumination. You become changed with energy as this revelation from the universe hits you completely and captures your mind. You’re instantly able to see the solution to a problem with which you have been wrestling; it comes to you in wordless form, and you perceive the entire package as it’s laid out to you in the depths of your being. You undergo a transcendent moment of creation as this inspiration enters your consciousness, and you comprehend what you must do and all the ramifications. The solution is complete, non-debatable, and irrefutable. This is the stuff of great discoveries — from scientific and technological advances to extraordinary forward leaps in philosophy, logic, art, music, and ethics.

As is typical of someone in JUNOON, Schweidenback developed a total obsession with sending bikes to poor people. “I thought that if I quit my job,” he says, “I could turn this little idea into a functioning entity. Instead of helping just a couple of hundred people, I could help thousands,” he says. Eventually, that’s what he did.

From the very start of his JUNOON, he knew in his heart of hearts that he could radically change entire towns for the better by helping people there to create wealth for themselves, by providing with mobility.

I have to say that Pedals for Progress works. A good example is the tiny, coastal town of Rivas, Nicaragua, to which Pedals for Progress has shipped more than 16,000 bikes. Everyone there rides one.

“While the rest of Nicaragua is experiencing staggering economic problems and high unemployment, Rivas is a booming metropolis with full employment, because everybody has a bicycle,” he says.

How does he keep getting the bikes he needs? Simple. The supply of bikes is endless. “People in the United States,” he says, “buy more than 22 million bikes a year and dump more than 5 million into landfills, often because they’re the wrong color.”

Most important, Schweidenback’s JUNOON keeps him motivated to continue his love affair with getting bikes into the hands of impoverished people. “My JUNOON,” he says, “is to enable people to get out of poverty by giving them the ability to get to work with the pride of self-sufficiency.”

Want to know about finding your JUNOON? Then be sure to pre-order – Driven: A How-to Strategy to Unlocking Your Greatest Potential, published by John Wiley & Sons on July 13th, 2010. Advance sales on Amazon have already started.

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Peter Roman

Peter J. Roman

Director of Global Accounts-Eaton Corporation

"It is rare when you find a formula to bridge the business and academic worlds. Razi Imam's Driven; A How-to Strategy to Unlock Your Greatest Potential accomplishes the task. This is a love story. The love of and application of positive obsession. The love of the hunt for and continued pursuit of success. I have known Razi for years, and he is a living example of his work Driven. He is a gifted communicator that will have a life long impact on you."