When I think of the familiar “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra, I think tin cans and water bottles…not bicycles.

Luckily, Allison Karow’s thinking isn’t as old-fashioned as mine.

Two and a half years ago, Karow started Bike Saviours out of a Tempe, AZ backyard. The non-profit serves as a(n):

  • bicycle shop that provides low-priced used bicycles and bike parts, as well as affordable repairs
  • “community recycling project” that turns donated bicycle parts into functional bicycles and looks for additional ways to reuse scrapped parts
  • “bike library” for people who need a bicycle only temporarily
  • education center that teaches people about riding safety, Arizona bicycle laws, and bicycle maintenance

Karow had worked at a similar organization in Oakland, and implemented the concept when she moved to Arizona.



A bike built by Bicycle Saviours, courtesy of the organization.

A bike built by Bicycle Saviours, courtesy of the organization.




I interviewed Heather Hoch, who has been with Bike Saviours since 2007, to see why she’s stuck with the organization thus far and what you can do to help.

Why did you get involved with Bike Saviours?
HH: I became interested in the organization after my friends began teaching me about bicycle mechanics. The bicycle represents a lot of things to me: a sustainable and efficient mode of transportation, a way to stay healthy, and a social experience.

What have you gotten out of your work with the organization?
HH: Bike Saviours is the only place I’ve ever worked where I could directly see the benefits I was bringing to the community. I’ve helped people fix a bike that carried their entire lives, and I did it absolutely free. Money is such a small issue in the shop, so it’s really refreshing to go there at the end of the week and just help out.

Do you accept donations?
HH: We love donations! Anyone with bike parts/tools lying around can drop by the shop on Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and donate them. We have an online wishlist detailing specific needs. We also accept cash donations.

What are some other ways to help?
HH: We’re also always looking for more volunteers to work in the shop. The more volunteers we have, the more days we can stay open, and the more people we can help. (Volunteers are required to takea  free 8-week bike mechanics course taught at the shop on Monday nights.)

Anything else readers should know?
HH: We want to save your bike!
Contact Heather or visit the shop on Sundays to find out more.

I’ve always thought “trickle-down economics” was a nice idea, albeit an unlikely one.

Apparently Glen and Mildred Robbins Leet agreed with me.


The Leets were “frustrated that huge sums of money allocated to top levels of society never reached the world’s poorest,” according to the website for Trickle Up, the organization they founded in 1979.  They decided to turn the tables on the decade’s popular philosophy and founded Trickle Up in response to global poverty. 


Trickle Up works primarily with the “extreme poor” – those living on less than $1 a day and unable to get a microloan – and helps them to launch “microenterprises” (very small businesses with limited profits).


The organization currently starts or expands a startling 10,000+ businesses each year globally.

An African family sponsored by previous Trickle Up campaign. (C) Trickle Up.

An African family sponsored by previous Trickle Up campaign. (C) Trickle Up.


How Trickle Up Does It:


Step 1: The organization identifies a participant by working with local organizations active in the regions where it has a presence.  Trickle Up has more than 50 of these partners in addition to field offices throughout Asia, Central America, and East and West Africa.


Step 2: Staff help the participant create a business plan, i.e. identification of product/service, location of demand, and projected costs/profit.  Plans have been translated into 30+ languages, but the majority of participants are illiterate.  Plans that use pictures to illustrate business concepts were designed to cater to those participants. 


Step 3: The participant is also trained in business functions.


Step 4: The first half of a (roughly $100) grant is released, which covers launch costs (rental of a facility, initial supplies, etc.)


Step 5: After three months, Trickle Up assesses the business in terms of growth, potential success, and proper management.  Trickle Up staff visit and speak directly with participants.  If a business is developing successfully, the second part of the grant is released.  This allows the participant to grow his/her businesses further, and the three month lag time before the release of the second installment allows him/her to develop a sense of what purchases would be most beneficial. 


Step 6: Trickle Up sets up group savings organizations and encourages participants, who were previously “living hand-to-mouth,” to save for emergencies or future expenses.


Step 7: Staff continues to provide ongoing support to successful entrepreneurs, i.e. microcredit.



Trickle Up reports that, after the first year, about 90 percent of businesses continue functioning, while over 80 percent of them expand.



What You Can Do:

1. Donate online, by phone, or by mail.  Donations start at $5, and 78% goes directly to services.
2. Give stocks, bonds, or other assets
3. Establish a fund in someone’s honor.
4. Register a special occasion with the site, and ask for donations in lieu of gifts.




Click to read stories from actual participants.