For many people around the world, obtaining a bicycle is a key obstacle keeping them from clean water, food and prosperity.
This summer, University of Florida sports management student Michael Breske decided he wanted to help people worldwide in obtaining this crucial transportation and is in the process of bringing a local chapter of Bicycles Against Poverty to UF and the Gainesville community.
Founded in 2007 by Muyambi Muyambi, a Ugandan student at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, BAP is a microfinance project in which money is collected to purchase bicycles and repair kits for families in less fortunate parts of the world.
The items are purchased from vendors in those areas as a means of contributing to the local economy while saving money on transportation fees and other costs.
After an interview process that ensures those with the most need are taken care of, the selected families receive a bicycle based on contract conditions that require half of the bike's cost to be repaid within 18 months.
The money that is repaid is then reinvested into the organization's efforts, which also include teaching bike repair and credit management workshops.
Breske wanted to continue volunteering this summer after returning from working in orphanages in Haiti in May. It was then that he discovered BAP on a website.
He said because BAP achieved so much success at a small school like Bucknell, UF seemed like a good place to start a new chapter.
Breske said he is currently in the beginning stages of getting things established at UF.
His progress so far includes getting information from UF on becoming an official organization on campus, creating a Facebook group to spread the word, and being in constant contact with Muyambi so he can follow his footsteps.
Breske said he is also working on a proposal asking the University Police Department to donate a portion of the abandoned bikes found around campus that are auctioned every year.
With those donations, Breske said the organization would fix up the bicycles and then sell them locally, so the money collected could be used to fund new bikes, repair kits and the learning workshops abroad.
"When you break it down, it's really an effective way to help people in need," Breske said. "Everything is purchased in those respective areas and it helps their economy."
He said the program is a great example of the old proverb, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
To date, BAP has donated over 170 bicycles to families in Uganda and is working on extending its efforts to Haiti, Muyambi said.
In regard to Breske's efforts here in Gainesville, Muyambi said finding people who are truly committed to the cause is the hardest part because people tend to get interested in other things, and sometimes lose sight of the overall goal.
He said when BAP received grants from organizations like the Clinton Global Initiative, 100 Projects for Peace and DoSomething.org, other students bought into the concept realizing that "it was real and it was going to happen."
Breske hopes to have a strong foundation of students to help with the organization this fall. Along with upperclassmen, he hopes freshmen at UF get involved because they "are the future of the club," and he wants to leave it in good hands when he graduates.
"It's truly like a passion project for me," he said.