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The donor: Pat Montani

The gift: Creating Bicycles for Humanity

The reason: To provide bikes to people in Africa

When Pat Montani sold his business in Toronto many years ago, he moved to British Columbia and began looking for something to do beyond just making money.

The technology entrepreneur came in contact with Michael Linke, who was gathering up used bicycles to send to health-care workers in Namibia. Mr. Montani offered to help and started a bike drive in Kelowna. He thought he’d get 50 bikes but instead received 2,500. After helping ship the bikes to Africa, Mr. Montani travelled to Namibia and saw how health-care workers used them to visit more people. “I’m looking at this and thinking, ‘We’re throwing millions of bikes away and they are pure gold in Africa,'” recalled Mr. Montani, who now lives in Whistler, B.C., and has worked on several technology ventures including one in Uganda.

He launched Bicycles for Humanity about 15 years ago and began shipping about 500 bikes a year to Uganda, Kenya and other countries. Word of the organization spread quickly in cycling circles and today Mr. Montani co-ordinates more than 30 chapters in eight countries. Each chapter raises enough money to cover the cost of shipping at least one container load of bikes (about 500) to various countries. Mr. Montani said chapters work with cargo brokers and community groups in Africa to ensure the bikes get to people in need. He estimated that Bicycles for Humanity has sent 190,000 bikes in total so far “and not one cent has been spent on overhead.”

“It’s sort of mind-blowing to see how this grassroots movement has worked,” he added. “I call it common sense community development.”