She and her 13-year-old brother would use the bike to get to school. They were two of the lucky ones in a place where people are without electricity, running water and, for the most part, any belongings at all, where many children can’t get an education because they live too far from the nearest school.
Odily’s 15-year-old brother had to walk two hours each way to get to class. But this was progress: Odily’s grandparents didn’t have schools. Her parents finished primary school. Her mother, Gloria Segura Martinez, hopes her children will go to college.
The bikes, she believes, will help take them there.
Odily stepped toward the iridescent bike. She looked back at her mother, dark eyes all question.
Segura smiled at her. “Go ahead,” she said. “It’s yours!”
* * *
Three months earlier, Peter Rushford had pulled into a parking lot at Baileys Crossroads on a chilly March afternoon, swung open the back of his SUV and started unloading bikes that his family no longer wanted. There were six of them, including the bright green mountain bike that his 20-year-old daughter, Carly, had once ridden to swim-team practice.
The bikes had been lying under the back porch of the Rushfords’ cedar-shingle-and-stone home in Potomac near Congressional Country Club. Then one of his son’s friends said he was doing a collection for a group called Bikes for the World.
The Arlington County nonprofit group takes thousands of unwanted bikes in suburban Washington — where things go from coveted to clutter in an instant — and sends them overseas to people who need them.
Its founder, Keith Oberg, knows how much of a difference even one bike could make. In the developing world, bikes can transform lives — increasing the number of people a public-health nurse can treat, helping a farmer deliver his fruit to a better market or making it easier for a family to get clean drinking water.
Each bike he sends to Latin America or Africa has a story. There’s a red Trek that a Frederick woman took on a grueling AIDS fundraising ride after a friend died of the disease. There’s a Viscount, custom-built in London for a Potomac woman’s cycling trip across Europe. There’s a little Murray with training wheels that an Arlington boy spotted behind the Christmas tree a few years ago and begged his parents to let him ride in the snow.
The bikes donated by the Rushfords included two that Peter and his wife, Susan, had ridden as newlyweds along the C&O Canal.