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The Global Search for Education: Director Gwendolyn Hamilton on Boosting Self-Confidence and Providing Jobs with Bicycles.

This month audiences can screen Director Gwendolyn Hamilton’s film, Second Cycles (curated by SIMA Classroom), on the Planet Classroom Network’s YouTube Channel.

Second Cycles tells a heartfelt story about what it means to be a member of a community. The film takes place in Nicaragua, the second most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere, and examines the more difficult parts of life in this country.

Bikes are one of the main modes of transportation. With a passion for bicycles, Baker Nicholaou – the director and co-founder of Bicicmaximo – traveled from the United States to Nicaragua to open up a business in hopes of providing better quality bikes while training locals as bike mechanics in order to provide sustainable jobs for people in need. The shop brings employment to many in the village, including adolescents who had been plagued with drug addiction from an early age.  The film takes a look at what is the ultimate goal of this social enterprise and how it can significantly impact the residents of Granada.

The Global Search for Education welcomes the film’s Director, Gwendolyn Hamilton.

Gwen, what got you passionate about this issue in Nicaragua? Why were you inspired to make the film?

     Social enterprises have long been of interest to me. We spend our money at multiple businesses every day unaware of the impacts they have on our communities.  I was inspired by Bicimaximo’s blueprint to provide a quality product with a low environmental impact while using the profits to give back to the community they were operating in by providing sustainable jobs for people in need. Their ultimate goal was a build a bike internship for men recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. Not only was this admirable but would give hope and second chances to an all too ostracized group. To me, this film was about how a business can choose to operate, and what a second chance could mean to someone. 

How did the founders figure out something as simple as bicycles could deliver a great impact, and what struggles did they face when trying to create this enterprise?

     The founders of Bicimaxico began by building bicycles out of used bicycle parts they sourced around town. As avid cyclers themselves, they saw an opportunity to provide a service to tourists visiting Granada. Bicycles are a staple in Nicaraguans’ lives and one of the most popular means of commuting. Sightseeing by bicycle was a way to connect with the culture and tour a city from a local’s perspective. The revenue the founders could make from marketing bicycle tours to visitors would in return provide them with enough funds to sustain their business, offer social programs and provide jobs to locals who needed the skill training and work. As outsiders coming in to start a business in Nicaragua, they would have faced several challenges. They’d have to immerse themselves in the culture, learn the language, and operate with sensitivity. It would take time and perseverance to foster a reputation, build an online presence and bolster the business to the point where it can maintain itself. 

How can people “on the outside” be of help to social businesses such as this one?

As consumers, we’ve become increasingly conscious about our purchases, channeling the power of our vocalized objections to make a positive difference for the people involved in the making of our goods.

It’s vital to have consumers’ support when it comes to social businesses! They may have the heart of a non-profit but they depend on profit to further a social purpose in a financially sustainable way. It’s important for us, as the consumer, to educate ourselves on what practices businesses are operating in. We can choose to purchase items or dine out at a business that is working to satisfy both local and regional needs by creating jobs and giving back to its community. We can change our lifestyle to reflect the values and services we want to see from our businesses. It feels good to know our money went towards supporting not only the business itself but our neighbors, and it restores a sense of community solidarity. Spend a little extra time to research places that align with your values and support those businesses both locally and when you travel.  

Do you see this enterprise as something that can substantially grow in the coming years?  What do you want audiences to take away from this story?

I think enterprises such as Bicimaximo have every opportunity to substantially grow and succeed if supported by consumers. Bicycles are eco-friendly, easy to maintain, a fun mode of transportation, and a fantastic way to see a city! Bicimaximo’s success ultimately depends on the amount of traffic they bring in just like any other business. Advertising bicycle tours to tourists was a smart way to bring in a consistent flow of new and recurring customers without leaving a hefty footprint. Their financial success ultimately, in return, brings societal success in the form of social programs that they’re implementing. This is why it’s so vital to support social businesses like Bicimaximo. Socially run businesses in neighborhoods can contribute to a sense of local identity, helping develop the self-confidence of local people and providing jobs to those in need.

C.M. Rubin and Gwendolyn Hamilton

Don’t Miss Director Gwendolyn Hamilton’s film, Second Cycles (curated by SIMA Classroom), on the Planet Classroom Network’s YouTube Channel.

This content was originally published here.

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