By Niha Masih
The Bicycle Project was born in 2008 when Hemant Chhabra saw two girls walking to school in the rain. Years of running an eco centre in tribal areas outside Mumbai had made Chhabra empathise with the plight of these village children who had to brave extreme weather conditions — scorching sun, bitter cold and torrential rains — to get to school and back. He started this initiative with the help of his wife Sangeeta and close friend Simona Terron. Chhabra began by sending out a simple email asking people to donate old, unused bicycles. Providence came visiting the next day in the form of a lady who had no bicycle to offer but donated Rs 5,000. There has been no looking back since. In two years, the group has managed to give 600 bicycles to children in the villages of Jawhar and Vikramgad. “I would go doorto- door from 6 am till late evening in my Maruti Versa collecting cycles from people who had written to us,” he recalls. “Now we have collection centres for people to drop the cycles in. Life in the village has changed.” Although the movement has focussed on getting bicycles for children so far, Chhabra now wants to address larger issues concerning the area, like reprocessing urban waste.
‘The cycle comes into use for multiple reasons. It is their BMW’
Chhabra can be reached at +91 98201 49022