BILLINGS, MT, May 16, 2017 – Inspiration leads to action. Moved by a passionate story from Malia Asfour, Jordan’s Tourism Board Director for North America, a small group of travel professionals gathered for dinner in Anchorage, AK for the ATTA adventure travel industry summit, came up with a plan to benefit impoverished rural communities in Jordan through the donation of used bicycles, the building of bike shops and support for tour guide and bicycle business training.
At the table that night, inspired by Asfour’s narrative, were Keith Sproule, Executive Director of A&K Philanthropy, Dan Austin, founder of Austin Adventures and the non-profit Wheels of Change that began donating bikes and operational skills to remote communities in Africa in 2010, and Muna Haddad, Director of the Jordan-based social enterprise Baraka whose mission is to support sustainable tourism while conserving and protecting cultural heritage and natural resources.
Once the fire was lit, this core group began to reach out to other tourism professionals for additional support and received commitments from World Nomads / Footprint Network who stepped up and agreed to help provide funding along with Tourism Cares who also committed to additional money to assist the establishment of community bicycle enterprises.
The wheels then began to move fast. Four months after the plan was hatched in Alaska, the first large container of 260 mountain bikes, spare parts and tools organized by Wheels of Change departed Billings, MT for Feynan, Jordan. On April 26, 2017, the container was officially opened and the process of distribution and training began. Present for the festivities were Andy Austin and Corey Meyer, two Austin Adventures guides assigned to do much of the mechanical training, along with Muna Haddad of Baraka, tasked to be the on-ground project manager. Haddad and her staff will work with the beneficiary communities, investing in setting up the shops. conducting training, oversee facilities and handle the logistics of ground transport into and around Jordan.
The plan is to establish two bike shops in Um Qais Village and Feynan. The shipping container will be repurposed as a bike rental and sales shop. Each shop established will include a bike tour component venture. So, in addition to the sale and repair of bikes at these shops, they will also be the starting point for local bike tours. Four individuals from Um Qais are currently being trained as tour guides, bringing new employment opportunities to the village.
A second container of 412 mountain bikes, spare parts and wheels sent by A&K Philanthropy in partnership with Working Bikes in Chicago was shipped on March 13, 2017. It is scheduled to arrive on or about May 28th in Madaba, Jordan. A&K Philanthropy covered the expense of the container and shipment.
Baraka will assist in establishing another bike shop venture in Madaba as well as a bike share program at Petra University making it the first bicycle-friendly campus in Jordan.
“It's beautiful to see an idea come to life,” posted Haddad on Facebook. “This is how we change the world, one idea at a time and a lot of hard work in between.”
Jordan is seeing an increasing interest in cycling according to its tourism board. But currently only the affluent can afford to own a bike. In rural areas bikes are very scarce. Access to them at an affordable price would bring increased mobility to the population. Bikes would facilitate more students getting to school, aid in creating more commerce between communities, offer better access to health care and help create new skills and business opportunities.
Jordan is actively building partnerships with adventure travel companies, introducing new cycling itineraries and mapping out adventurous bike trails nationwide. Recently completed is the Jordan Trail, a long distance multi-use trail in Jordan that connects the length of Jordan from Um Qais in the north to Aqaba in the south. It offers 40 days of uninterrupted hiking over more than 650 kilometers of trail, travelling through 52 villages and towns on its way.
All of this will be showcased at the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s AdventureNEXT Near East, May 15-17, 2017. A&K Philanthropy’s Keith Sproule and others will present the bike donation initiative at the conference and use it as a case study on how such strategic partnerships can successfully benefit grass-roots development and tourism in countries such as Jordan.
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Widness & Wiggins PR - for photos, interviews and more information:
Austin Adventures / Wheels of Change:
Jordan Tourism Board, North America:
Baraka / Jordan Trail Association
Muna Haddad, Managing Director of Baraka / President, Jordan Trail Association
Adventure Travel Trade Association – ATTA