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By Fr Oliver McCrossan
This report was sent in February by Father McCrossan and the Management Team of 'Pedaling to Live'.
'There are nine million bicycles in Beijing . . .' These are the opening words of a song of Katie Melua. That's Beijing! This is Ozamiz City, Philippines, and there are 74 tricycles, few by Beijing's standards, but providing a reliable, pollution-free transport service for hundreds of people, and a living for the drivers and their families.
Every day the 'Pedaling to Live' drivers, in all kinds of weather, carry young and old to their various destinations around this city. The work is hard, the hours long. Most of the time they receive little thanks or recognition for their outstanding service to the community, but thankfully the public are now growing in appreciation of the sacrifices made on their behalf.
'Pedaling to Live' began in April 2006 with five tricycles. Today we have 74 in operation. 53 are now owned by the drivers themselves. The rest are in the process of completing their payments. The average daily earnings are two hundred and fifty pesos (around US$5.40 or €4.00 a day). They pay back fifty pesos a day towards payment of their tricycle. In addition, the drivers deposit twenty pesos a day in their savings account. They are encouraged to save as much as they can.
In our scholarship program we have 23 children in elementary school, thirteen in high school and two in college.(College fees are expensive). Help is provided to pay for school uniforms, school supplies and tuition fees.
With the help of local health personnel, regular health check-ups are given to the drivers and their families. On occasion during the year we provide vitamins and rice for the children.
Loans are also available for house repairs. The families are all living in the poorest areas of the city and many of their houses are badly in need of repair.
The drivers meet once a month to review the program and discuss future plans The meetings also help in building support for each other. Twice a year, a two- day recollection takes place. All the drivers and their wives and partners are invited to attend.
Our plan is to continue to increase the number of tricycles. There is a long list of applicants wishing to join. We have purchased one-fourth of a hectare of land which will be used to provide housing for the members of the program. We will build 40 houses on the site.
The generous support we have received since the very beginning of 'Pedaling to Live' is a great source of encouragement to us. To our benefactors we say 'Thanks'. It would not have happened without your support.
This April, 2010, we will celebrate our fourth year. The journey continues. May God guide us on the journey.