Making a difference, one bike at a time
Peter Howe, a British Empire Medal recipient and retired police officer, has re-furbished more than 750 bikes that have gone to people in need.
Personally speaking, the benefits and the satisfaction come from the fact that I am doing something for someone else. — Peter
Peter and his lovely bride of 57 years, Barbara, live in the village of Normanby in North Yorkshire, England. Cancer causes are near and dear to their hearts—perhaps because they’ve both suffered from this disease, as has their granddaughter, Laura.
Peter started fundraising for cancer charities back in the 80s. Through the years, he has participated in cycling events around the world and raised more than a million pounds for worthy causes.
During his police years, Peter was known as The Bike Man. Sometime around 1985—after realizing too many bikes were being thrown out for the scrap man—he started refurbishing unwanted bicycles.
As kids outgrew their bikes or received new ones, Peter inherited the old ones. He often had thirty or more bicycles in his repair shop in various stages of roadworthy-ness.
Each refurbished set of wheels found a new home and any donated funds, as a result, went to support children’s cancer charities.
I have always been there for folks who wanted their bike sorting out. — Peter
Romania, Poland, and Africa connections
Hearing of his work, two non-profit organizations contacted Peter and began transporting his refurbished bikes to other places in the world.
As a result, there are amazing stories from people in third world areas whose lives were changed because of a pre-owned bike in good working order—grateful doctors, nurses, teachers, children, African wildlife wardens, and even the mayor of a town in Poland.
The Romania Connection. Peter knew Pastor Warmsley from his early police years. Warmsley established the charity Children in Distress at a time when the Romanian dictator Ceaușescu relegated children with HIV/AIDS to orphanages “that were worse than prisons.”
Pastor Warmsley and his team of volunteers were granted the administration of the St. Laurence orphanage at Cernavoda. It is now dedicated to working with incurably and terminally ill children, those with HIV/AIDS or autism, and the physically handicapped.
Peter’s bikes were included on the list of needs for the children and the orphanage workers.
And then doctors, nurses, and teachers sent messages back to England requesting bikes with mudguards, or bikes with baskets or panniers, so they could visit their patients and carry their books and files.
The Poland Connection. Colin Appleyard, a businessman in one of the areas Peter policed, established the charity, Aid to Poland. Peter got involved when he learned bikes were needed. He also managed to locate unwanted wheelchairs, which—after a bit of sprucing up—were sent off to Poland.
The Africa Connection. When it became clear that the local tribesmen who served as African wildlife wardens could patrol more efficiently with bicycles, some of Peter’s refurbished bikes were transported to Africa.
Volunteers from the organizations kept diaries of distribution and any notable tales for their quarterly reports. With so many wonderful stories pouring back in, Peter put together a presentation. These talks continue to generate many thousands of pounds sterling for the chosen supported cause.
And now you know why Peter was awarded the British Empire Medal for meritorious civil service worthy of recognition by the Crown.
Thousands of miles
A longtime friend called Peter and told him that his son’s bike was hanging on the garage wall. “He wanted rid of it. So I went round and on seeing the bike, I knew it was an expensive hand built legendary make—a Hardisty.” Peter refurbished it and his first outing with the Hardisty was from Land’s End, the southernmost point, to John O’Groats, the northernmost tip of the United Kingdom—a thousand miles.
And speaking of the LEJOG, Peter has completed this run three times. In addition, he’s cycled in Mexico, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Viet Nam, and 4,500 miles across America—all while raising funds for cancer and leukemia causes.
When Peter thinks back through the years and the stories, he couldn’t be happier:
I thank Father God for motivating me to use those God-given skills. I have been so blessed.
Peter says that “if more folk were to know just what giving in service voluntarily can do to make a difference, they would experience such joy.”
But they have to step out of their comfort zone and get their hands dirty.
Which begs the question: What if we could step out of our comfort zones and get our hands dirty?
What if we could use our God-given skills to make life a little easier for other people?
One bike at a time. One meal at a time. One encouraging note at a time. One act of kindness at a time.
From his experience, Peter knows we would be blessed in the process.