Breaking Poverty Cycle 2 Wheels at a Time

How do you break the cycle of childhood poverty and deprivation in the third world?

There's no easy answer to that question, but some kids might say a bicycle is a good place to start, and writer and filmmaker Dan Austin is one of New York's all-time bicycle delivery guys, reports CBS News Correspondent Jeff Glor.

"There's a lot of kids out there that could use a bike," Austin said.

After a 2007 cycling vacation in Cambodia with his brother, Austin decided they should give their bikes away, to a local orphanage.

"We realized that, you know, 88 kids lived at the orphanage, which meant that 86 kids would feel pretty left out," Austin said. "We couldn't have that."

They frantically sent messages via Facebook and e-mail to just about everyone they knew. Four days later, they had enough money to buy bikes from Cambodian bike shops for all 88 orphans.

No one was ready for what happened on delivery day.

"It was like this tsunami of happiness," Austin said. "I've never seen anything like it. They all were going nuts."

"And you realized then 'we gotta do it some more?'" Glor asked.

"I think the seeds were planted," Austin said.

And 88Bikes was born. Austin has since delivered 200 bikes to war orphans in refugee camps in Uganda and hundreds more to HIV-positive children in Peru.

"They've been through things that no one should have to go through, especially a child," Austin said. "So we're hoping that a bike will help them reclaim a little bit of their lost childhood and give them, you know, a way to sort of regain a bit of that."

It's "The Little Charity That Could." Outside Magazine cited Austin as one of "10 icons changing the world."

"He's not affecting, you know, thousands or hundreds of thousands of kids," said the magazine's Mike Roberts. "We're talking hundreds of kids, but, for those kids, it is huge. Especially if you're in a place like Cambodia, a bicycle means freedom. Because of that, it's incredibly inspiring and really powerful."

Sponsorships are $88, the average price for a bike in the third world. On missions, Austin brings photos and maps so each child knows the person who cared enough to buy them that bike. In return, each donor gets a picture of the bike they donated and a picture of the child who received it.

"We really feel strongly that you can connect people across the world like this," Austin said. "I think that's the root of what 88Bikes is about, this one-to-one connection."

This summer brings a major expansion with as many as 2,000 bicycles going to remote sites in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Tanzania and American Indian reservations in the United States.

But first, Austin and his brother did something nostalgic for themselves: a return to that original orphanage, where they led three dozen of those same young kids on a 35-mile trek through the Cambodian countryside.

"It's the magic of travel," Austin said. "Having these sorts of journeys where you really connect with the world and yourself and maybe do some good along the way."

That's the effect one trip continues to have on Austin, two wheels at a time.

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For more information about 88Bikes or for ways to donate, visit the charity's Web site at http://www.88bikes.org.

  • Jeff Glor

    Jeff Glor was named anchor of the Sunday edition of the "CBS Evening News" in January 2012 and Special Correspondent for "CBS This Morning" in November 2011.