‘Cycle Recycle’ is a social initiative started by journalist Sunandan Lele that is bridging the two between the luxuries of the rich and the necessities of the poor.
Sunandan Lele is a long time freelance journalist who reports mostly about cricket for well known media houses such as Zee and BBC. He is among the few sports journalists to have witnessed all 75 centuries made by Sachin Tendulkar! But that’s not all there is to him – he keeps an eye on his surroundings and the happenings around him, like any keen reporter would do.
On one occasion, Sunandan visited a remote school at Vinzar village, in the foothills of the majestic Raigad Fort in Maharashtra. The school had more than 500 students.
As this was the only school in the area, students from villages close and far walked almost 3-7 km (one way) to reach the school every day.
These kids were extremely poor and could not even afford bus fares to get to school. During the rainy season, they often got wet and muddy by the time they reached their classrooms.
Sunandan took down all the details about the school before he came back to his home in the Springfields Housing Society in Kothrud, Pune.
One day, while looking around the basement in his building, he noticed several unused bicycles lying around – some of them had been around for years. And an idea struck him!
“I had never noticed this so minutely before. But this was the scene in virtually all the housing societies in Pune and Mumbai. Parents buy bicycles for their kids with great enthusiasm, but the children hardly use them for a year or two. Then, they just lie around unused. On the other hand, there are these villages that are an hour and a half away from the cities, where children have to walk 3-7 km every day to get an education. If the residents of our housing society give these unused cycles generously, they can be repaired and used by these students to commute to school,” says Sunandan
Sunandan decided to help change the situation rather than just report about it. He, along with his wife and two other friends, Mihir and Nivedita Gogte, went door to door in Springfields society and shared his thoughts with other residents there.
Says Nivedita: “I feel that we are a part of society and should be sensitive to the needs of others, be more socially oriented.”
Slowly, other residents came on board too. They named the project ‘Cycle Recycle.’
The team knocked at several doors of the apartment complex, earnestly requesting people to donate their old and unused cycles. If they did not have cycles, they were requested to extend monetary support towards the repairs of these donated cycles. Within a month, Cycle Recycle managed to collect around 40 cycles and funds to the tune of almost Rs. 50,000 towards the repair work. The cost for repairing each cycle was in the range of Rs. 300-Rs. 1100, depending on the condition of the donated vehicle.
On March 11, 2016, the Cycle Recycle team reached Swami Vivekananda Trust’s New English School and Junior College situated in Vinzar village. They brought 50 bicycles with them.
“The overjoyed look on the faces of the children, the gleam in their eyes – words cannot express the satisfaction we felt on seeing that,” says Hemant Kale, a Cycle Recycle team member.
“I am so thankful to the team of Cycle Recycle. These kids had to walk at least an hour to reach school earlier. Their parents cannot afford daily meals, so there is no question of paying for the bus fare. But now, they come on their bicycles. I feel so happy looking at their faces,” said Mr. Mohite, the school principal.
As for the children, they cannot wait to share their experience.
Says Abhishek Bhagvan Jagtap: “I study in the 6th standard. I have to come from Tamakadadi village as we don’t have a secondary school there. I had to walk at least an hour to reach school earlier. But now, I reach in half an hour on my bicycle. I am not used to cycling as of now, but soon I will speed up and reach in 15 minutes. Oh yes! My friend also got a cycle so now we have fun on the way too.”
Nikita Dattatrey Jadhav adds, “I am in the 8th standard now. All these years I came walking from Malavali to attend school at Vinzar. Malavali is 3.5 km away. I left home at 9 am and reached school at 10:30 am. After school finished it used to be almost evening by the time we reached home. The Cycle Recycle team gave us these bicycles and now I can study for a longer time after going home. I want to become an IPS officer.”
Roshani Nitin Kamble is another child who has benefitted: “I study in the 6th standard. My village Lashirgaon is 6 km away from my school. Cycle Recycle gave me this bicycle so that I don’t have to walk 6 km every day. I didn’t know how to ride it before but when I got the cycle my cousin taught me to ride it in just three days. I am so happy now. I want to become a writer when I grow up and write about such nice people.”
Cycle Recycle is helping bridge the gap between the luxuries of the rich and the necessities of the poor. After their first successful donation campaign, the team did a similar drive in Aakashdeep Society on Sinhgad road, and Pethkar Saamrajya, Guruganesh Nagar and Kapil Abhijaat in Kothrud. This helped them collect more than 70 cycles and approximately Rs. 70,000 in just one day.
An appeal from team Cycle Recycle:
Would you also like to be a part of this initiative by requesting the residents in your housing society to donate their unused cycles?
You can do so by:
- Donating your old/unused bicycles. We will get them repaired.
- Repairing your old/unused bicycles and then donating them to us.
- Contributing monetarily towards the repairs.
Please visit the group’s Facebook page to know more about their upcoming drives to collect cycles.