What can you do with about 12,500 plastic water bottles? Build a boat. David de Rothschild tells you how and why.
The original idea was straightforward enough. While planning a bike ride through the Cambodian countryside in 2006, Austin, an author and documentary filmmaker, and his brother, Jared, a pediatrician, decided they wanted to donate their bikes to a local orphanage. Then they found out the orphanage housed 88 kids. "It was like this lightning bolt," says Austin. In just five days, the brothers, with the help of Web-savvy friend Nick Arauz, founded a nonprofit, launched a Web site, and linked it up to PayPal. "Being able to accept donations online easily and securely was a tremendous help," says Austin. Each bike costs $88, and by the time they got to Cambodia, they had all the money they needed to buy bikes for every orphan. "When you buy a bike, we give your picture to the child," says Austin, "and then we take a picture of the child with the bike holding your picture and give it back to you." It's a winning strategy: Over the past three years, 88bikes has given away several hundred bikes to children in Uganda and Peru and has projects under way in India, Nepal, Vietnam, and Ghana. One of the main keys to 88bikes' success is understanding the limitations of social media. "We've got a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter pageall that stuff," says Austin. "But you've still got to take time to chat with people and forge one-to-one connections."