Do you remember our local world-class athlete, Claire Geiger? Well, the extremely talented “girl next door” moved away and moved on to bigger and better things.
Back in 2012, she had found new meaning in her racing and training. After qualifying for and competing in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Claire was looking for something outside of herself. Despite her success as an athlete, she was hungry for something more. She found that meaning training and competing as a personal fundraiser for Team WBR. (The fundraising program was a precursor to World Bicycle Relief’s current ambassador program.)
Claire says that racing and training for WBR renewed her enthusiasm, “making athletic pursuits about more than myself.” At the time, she shared this insight:
“This winter, I struggled to put meaning behind my training and passion behind my racing. Medals and trophies mean little to me. It wasn’t until I found World Bicycle Relief that I found an organization that resonated with me on all levels. WBR is an organization that provides access to independence and livelihood through The Power of Bicycles… The money raised helps to provide robust bicycles to students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs in rural Africa, connecting them with education, healthcare and economic opportunities.”
Focusing her athletic endeavors outside of herself, Claire says, “gave me a really good sense of more reward than just the finish line.” She adds, “I was helping to mobilize others through my efforts.” The more involved she got, her commitment to the cause grew. “The more fundraisers I did, the more I believed in WBR.”
In the months that followed, Claire continued to listen to her heart. She took a leap of faith and headed for the mountains out west, her active lifestyle and sense of adventure fit right in. And it spurred her desire to do more with WBR. “When I moved out to Colorado, I wanted to go out and do more to get involved.”
Soon after her move, Claire had the opportunity to turn her passion into a career, when she landed the role of Grassroots Development Manager for World Bicycle Relief. Where she once sought greater meaning in her racing, she now finds it in her every day.
Of the evolution of her involvement with WBR, Claire says, “I am still helping and enabling the same people I once was, but now, by helping ‘the networkers’ in their communities, I can help twenty-five people who each have twenty-five people.” In other words, the impacts of Claire’s efforts have now multiplied exponentially.
We had a chance to catch up with Claire after her recent trip with WBR to Zambia. For those unfamiliar, Africa Rides offers an exclusive opportunity for World Bicycle Relief donors and supporters to connect with Buffalo Bicycle recipients. Over nine days, participants get to experience the spirit of ingenuity and hope that comes with a bicycle. In short, it’s the opportunity to experience firsthand the Power of Bicycles. (For firsthand accounts of Africa Rides, read about the Higney family’s experience there in 2013 or Ruth-Anne Renaud’s journey in 2014.)
For Claire, the Africa Rides experience “renewed my confidence and commitment in the work that we do, how we do it and in our team in the field. Our team in the field is just amazing. It was reassuring to me. I felt really proud of the way our organization goes about its work.”
Claire confirms that the beauty of the Africa Rides adventure is “to experience ‘the Power of Bicycles’ first hand.” She tells us, “You see the impact one bicycle can make – to a person who has to bike fifty kilometers to get to work; to students who wouldn’t stay in school.” Students, Claire tells us, “who are just like me, but born into different circumstances.”
And those circumstances can be dire. “It’s a challenging place. There is a lot of poverty. There is severe drought. There are power outages every day. The value of their currency is decreasing.”
What struck Claire, as it does many others, was the attitude of the people who live through those daily challenges. “I’ve never been so amazed by a culture of people. They are so warm, so welcoming despite all the hardships they deal with on a daily basis. Their singing; their dancing; their love for live; their resiliency… Their perseverance despite all the hardship.”
In all that struggle, Claire tells us, “a bike provides a little bit of hope to what can be, as well as having the access to what they need on a daily basis.” But WBR doesn’t just distribute bicycles. It distributes purpose-driven bikes that are made to endure the hardships of the African terrain.
Claire shared with us that there’s a display that compares the Buffalo Bikes with other bikes on the market, other bikes that are often found abandoned on the roads for lack of available parts. “We got to drop them on the floor. You can hear and feel the sturdiness of the ‘Power of the Buffalo.’”
During her trip, Claire got to witness the distribution of 187 Buffalo Bikes to the students of a school. “You can see the smiles on their faces. For me, that was enough. I don’t need any more validation. I knew it from that one interaction. It all matters.”
The experience reinforced Claire’s belief that “every single bike matters.” And that’s the beauty of donations to WBR: gifts in any amount add up and translate directly into bicycles or parts for those bicycles. And now through the end of December, your gift goes twice as far with dollar-for-dollar matching.*
* The first $1.2M in donations received online or postmarked by 12/31/2015 will be matched dollar-for-dollar.
- Learn more about Palabana, Chongwe District, Zambia, a community on the move >>
- Meet the Higney family, who experienced first-hand The Power of Bicycles >>
- Meet Ruth-Anne Renaud, who made a career out of sharing the Power of Bicycles >>
- Meet Tom Renaud, whose goal was to raise enough money to donate 100 Buffalo Bikes in 2015 >>
- Click here to stay connected with WBR and to receive their email updates >>
- Donate to World Bicycle Relief now >>