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Chains4Change update: Ginger Howard successfully delivers 11 bikes to students in Guatemala

As Redwood students gathered in school hallways to begin their first week back from winter break, junior Ginger Howard was loading 11 bikes onto a boat bound for Santiago Atitlan, a small remote town in Guatemala. The bikes were provided to support the educational opportunities of students at the night school, Instituto Mixto de Educacion Cooperativa Nocturna, by offering transportation.

Loading the boat with 11 bikes for the students, Ginger Howard prepares to head to Santiago Atitlan. (Photo courtesy of Ginger Howard)

 In mid-2023, Ginger created Chains4Change, an organization dedicated to ensuring access to education in underserved communities. It focuses on assisting students ages 13-18 who do fieldwork during the day and face an hour-and-a-half walk at night to attend school. Ginger Howard’s goal was to deliver bikes to these students to provide them with a safer and more consistent means of attending school.

In Guatemala, education is considered a luxury due to insufficient government funding and limited learning outcomes, according to The United States Agency for International Development. 

Instituto Mixto de Educacion Cooperativa Nocturna was established in 2005 to assist young individuals who work during the day, enabling them to study at night. School director Felipe Mendez emphasized the significance of the bikes for the students, as they are ensuring that children in Atitlan can attend classes.

With the help of family and community members, Ginger Howard successfully reached her goal of enabling the distribution of bikes by raising $4,600 in three months.

“I purposely set [the GoFundMe] higher than I needed it just in case there was some sort of last-minute purchase or taxes,” Ginger Howard said. “So when I got past $4,400 I stopped reaching out to people because I didn’t need to anymore.”

Eleven bikes are prepared to greet the students as they enter the school. (Photo courtesy of Ginger Howard)

Due to the generous donations, Ginger Howard was able to purchase the bikes through a mechanic in Guatemala, ensuring that the bikes would be assembled and ready to distribute to students. Accompanied by family members, Ginger Howard traveled to Guatemala to facilitate the delivery of the bikes.

As a result, Ginger Howard was welcomed by students and community members with enthusiasm and gratitude.

“The overall spirit of everyone that I met was so incredible, but also positive and kind. [My sister] and my two uncles kept pointing out to me like, ‘Look at how happy the people are,’” Ginger Howard said.

Sophomore Lucy Howard, Ginger Howard’s sister, accompanied her on the trip to Guatemala.

“I’m very proud of her [for doing this]. It took a lot of effort. I think it’s really cool how she’s doing [this project] in a different language. It’s definitely inspired me to work on my Spanish,” Lucy Howard said.

Meanwhile, Ginger Howard’s bikes have successfully strengthened community bonds while increasing education accessibility. School director Mendez has expressed plans to initiate a club, inviting students to join bike rides during their off-hours and welcoming other Santiago community members who own bikes to participate.

Smiling wide, school director Felipe Mendez tests out the bikes before students arrive. (Photo courtesy of Ginger Howard)

Despite the success, Ginger Howard has made it clear that her work is still unfinished.

“I can’t find out how effective it is until another month from now, where I can look at [the] attendance of the students. So far, what Carolina [the school teacher] and [Mendez] have been telling me is that kids are coming to class, kids are excited to come to class and that they’re really grateful for the opportunity to have bikes,” Ginger Howard said.

Using this as a model for the future of her organization, Ginger Howard hopes to take the next few months to brainstorm bigger ideas to help increase access to education outside our community– next time with the help of her peers.

“I definitely need to take a team of people with me next time, whether it’s the mountain biking team or people around school who are interested or people inside the Marin community,” Ginger Howard said.

Simultaneously, Ginger Howard is implementing a plan to supply the school with computers to ensure a more profound and meaningful impact on the quality of their education before progressing to the expansion of her initiative.

Teaching students to balance on the bike, Ginger’s uncle Dave Howard helps students get comfortable riding their new bikes. (Video courtesy of Ginger Howard)

To stay updated on Ginger Howard’s non-profit journey, follow @chains.4change on Instagram.

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About the Contributor
Aurora Sreba is a junior at Redwood High School and is a reporter in the Advanced Journalism Arts & Media program. She enjoys spending time in nature, traveling and taking photos.