40 bikes, that were donated to the Steinbach MCC Thrift Store, are on their way to Mali, West Africa.
General Manager at the Steinbach location, Dave Thiessen tells us about the day he met Issy.
“Well, a couple of days ago I had a tall young gentleman come in and ask me whether we have any bikes available for donation. I was surprised. I mean, he didn’t know that in our warehouse we had about 40 bikes that had been donated. All in our warehouse. He didn't know that.”
Thiessen says that about half the bikes were already serviced and ready to go, while the other half still needed some work done on them, which our volunteers had plans to work on over winter.
But before any of that was revealed, Thiessen got to know the young man.
Issy was born and raised in Mali, West Africa and currently attends University of St. Boniface, taking his Master's in Political Science.
During a recent trip home, Issy connected with an uncle who suggested that if Issy wanted to help the people of Mali, to find a way to send them wheelchairs, walkers and bikes.
Issy told Thiessen a story about a man he met, who was walking in the middle of nowhere. Issy said, he had asked the man where he was heading. The man had said to his job, which was a 3-hr walk, one way. Issy noted that the man would work for a couple of hours, get paid and then walk back home.
Thiessen recalls Issy’s story, “You know, bicycles would shorten up that time. And then the children, who walk an hour or more just to get to school. And Issy said, those kids don't care if they are seats on the bike or whatever. They're just so excited. He says, when the container gets there and if they've got bikes and stuff in there, those kids are all lined up, and the excitement is just so exuberant over these bikes.”
Thiessen says, those same bikes to Manitoban’s maybe look like junk, but to the children in Mali “They just make a huge impact.”
And for Issy, he feels very fortunate to be able to live in Canada, get his education and to be able to help those in his town and his family back in Mali.
When it came to trusting that Issy’s request was genuine, Thiessen says,
“This was just instantly a fit. I mean, we had a little bit of a conversation, right? He told me some stories. I confirmed a bit of information with him to make sure that it's all legitimate and away we go.”
Then Wednesday morning, Issy and an older Canadian friend, ‘dad’ Alfred, pulled up to the back of the Thrift Store and loaded up a trailer full of bikes donated by Steinbach and area residents.
Thiessen says the bikes will be added to a shipping container, heading for Mali. He notes, it’s going to be expensive, but Issy has already found people to donate the funds.
Thiessen adds, “Normally we (MCC) don't ship goods overseas to these developing countries A) because of the cost, it's not efficient at all and B) we don't want to interfere with their economies over there. But in this case, you know, these are items that they have a shortage of, and they've already got the funds raised to pay the expenses of shipping the items. So, we just saw it as a huge win-win.”
Thiessen says, donating these bikes to Issy was also a good thing for the Steinbach Thrift Store, because the volunteer who normally works on bikes has been laid up for a bit, so the bikes had kind of been piling up there.
“And then here is this need. Well, I've worked for MCC long enough to see that this is a fit and we needed to make this work.”
Thiessen notes instances like this don’t happen without the support of the community.
“Thank you for the continued generosity and support of the community. I mean, whether it's our volunteers or the donors and the customers, just the fact that this enterprise that we have here, that we've been running for over 50 years is successful, it works, and we've got the flexibility to be able to do these things. I mean it's just a win-win all around. Yeah, we appreciate everyone.”
Thiessen notes he and Issy will connect again in 4-6 weeks and Issy will let him know if the shipment made it to Mali.
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