A new non-profit is helping enrich communities in developing countries. Founded by SE resident Clark Negen in 2011, Sharecycle focuses on shipping donated used and recycled goods to communities and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) in developing countries.
Inspired by his experiences in the United States Peace Corps in rural Zambia, Negen saw how little some villagers had in their homes, and upon his return, how much people in the States wanted to help.
He created Sharecycle to help connect people in the United States to communities abroad. The small, volunteer-led organization serves as an intermediary where people in the States can share their “overabundance” with places where some goods are not readily available, or where folks can’t afford to buy them. Hopefully through this sharing, opportunities will be created.
Negen’s experience mirrors that of other members of Sharecycle, some of whom grew up in different countries such as Nigeria and India, and others who have had their perspectives changed through their travels in rural areas of the world.
“The unique thing about Sharecyle is that we provide basic goods to small communities of people that reside in very remote regions of the world,” Negen said.
“Our team is able to collectively find out about these remote communities through both a wide range of personal traveling experiences, as well as the curiosity to learn about them through day-to-day conversations.”
Sharecycle’s team also realizes how providing someone with items that we take for granted, such as an old soccer ball, a book, or even a bar of soap can create happiness and even opportunities.
We might not think twice when we see a sewing machine here, but to a person in a rural area of a developing country, that could be their lifeline. They’d be able to sew clothing for their families, sew mosquito nets to help prevent the spread of malaria, and sew creations to sell in the marketplace to feed their families and fund their children’s education.
“There is this notion that people in developing countries want handouts and live in a culture of dependency, and do not want to be self-sufficient,” says Tracy Abiaka, secretary of Sharecycle.
“I do not agree. There are very proud and intelligent people that want to better themselves and their communities and some just need the basic resources to do so. Most of the time due to political, socio-economical, and geographical reasons, they do not have access to these resources which leave them in what some people view as a hopeless precarious state.
“We try to provide them with goods through the generosity of people in our community so they could help foster opportunities in theirs.”
Sharecycle connects with an organization through a request form on their website. The requesting agency completes a form and indicates items that are needed. Afterwards, the Board of Sharecycle votes to take on the project by considering the feasibility of the request.
Although the amount and size of the projects Sharecycle accepts is limited due to its current size and funding, members hope to take on more large-scale projects in the future as awareness and funding increases.
Getting donated items is simple enough, but the biggest hurdle for the organization is shipping. Along with numerous and complex international shipping and receiving regulations, the organization sometimes runs into issues obtaining the funds to deliver goods to a designated country.
They accept monetary donations and hold fundraisers at local establishments to help pay for shipping and receiving costs. The next fundraiser will be on Saturday, April 13 at the Jolly Roger in SE Portland at 1340 SE 12th Ave. where Sharecycle will receive a percentage of the day’s proceeds.
Since its inception, the group has completed various projects in different countries. Past project partnerships have included an orphanage in Tanzania and a beekeeping club in Zambia.
Currently, the group is requesting sewing machines, single-gear bicycles, cooking utensils (not including pots and pans), film cameras, solar or battery operated radios and converters for an organization in Tanzania that helps provide economic opportunities and education in their community.
The group still accepts other items and a list of frequently-requested goods can be found on their website.
Almost everyone in the community can pitch in to help. Frequently-requested items are ones that can already be found in most homes.
The sharing of items that would normally be thrown away also helps reduce waste in the community. Apart from certain donations, such as hygienic products, most items do not need to be brand-new as long as the items are in good condition.
The next time you are cleaning out your home, think about how that “trash” could become someone else’s “treasure,” and how it can help give someone a step-up in alleviating poverty.
To learn more about Sharecycle, visit www.sharecyclepdx.org.