Helping People One Bike at a Time

02 August 2020

A year after he died at the age of 17, a young man's love of helping others lives on. Through a foundation established by his parents, Benjamin Canlas is still making the world a better place — one bike at a time.

The Benjamin Canlas Courage to be Kind Foundation gives away mountain bikes to Filipinos who are struggling to hold on to jobs. The Philippines has been hit hard by COVID-19.

Benjamin Canlas Courage to be Kind Foundation founder Dr. George Canlas (left) watches as one of the winners pushes a bicycle during the award ceremony in Manila, Philippines, July 11, 2020.
Benjamin Canlas Courage to be Kind Foundation founder Dr. George Canlas (left) watches as one of the winners pushes a bicycle during the award ceremony in Manila, Philippines, July 11, 2020.

Dr. Glennda Canlas and her husband, Dr. George Canlas, created the foundation to honor their son and his kindness. One time, Benjamin saw a food seller riding an old bicycle. Its pedals were missing. To help, Benjamin used his own money that he had saved to fix the food seller's bike.

After their son's death, his parents saw a way to connect private donors with those in need. In this way, they could honor their son.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Benjamin's mother said, "There is so much need out there. But people are willing to help. You just have to put them together."

In the Philippines, many businesses have been closed and many jobs have been lost as a result of the coronavirus crisis. This has left thousands of Filipinos struggling to have enough money to survive. Many have had to take odd jobs. These are small jobs that are often done in someone's home, such as cleaning or repairing things. And that means traveling from one place to another.

However, public transportation has been severely restricted by the coronavirus. So many people must walk for hours in the sun or rain to get to these jobs.

Benjamin's parents had the idea to give away bikes to deserving individuals nominated by their friends, family members or coworkers.

When the giveaway contest was announced on social media, they did not know how much interest there would be. At first, their plan was to give away seven bicycles. But then they received more than 50 nominations. All of them were then checked for truthfulness.

And then on July 11, 27 people were awarded bicycles. These bicycles are meant to help make their lives a little easier.

Among the winners is 25-year old Ronaldo del Rosario Jr. He lost his job at a fast food restaurant due to the coronavirus lockdown.

To support his wife and young baby, he borrowed a bicycle. He sold rice cakes in the morning and smoked fish in the afternoon, traveling many kilometers each day. This caused the borrowed bike to break often. So, he often lost valuable time and earnings on repairs.

Mharygrace Ortega is del Rosario's partner. Ortega nominated del Rosario because the wheels on the borrowed bicycle were always breaking down from working so hard.

At first, del Rosario could not believe that he was getting a new bike.

"A bike," he said, "isn't just a simple thing." He explained that a bike supports his life. A bike is his partner in his work every day.

Del Rosario added that when he lost his fast food job, he also lost the usual daily routine that came with it. His new bicycle has helped him to get used to his new work, which has him traveling far every day.

Another new bike owner is Liezel Camilla. Camilla is 24 years old and a mother of a 2-year-old child. When her husband's work was put on hold, she started selling and delivering food on her own.

With tears in her eyes, Camilla said that she is "so happy" that she will not have to walk so far anymore.

Even as the contest ended, nominations continued to come in. The foundation said there are people still in need and much work needs to be done.

The foundation is working on launching more sustainable projects. The goal is that these projects will help more people while also urging others to be kind and help those in need.

"We live in a world where it still takes courage to be kind," said Dr. Glennda Canlas. Benjamin's mother added that the goal of the foundation is to help create a world where kindness does not require courage – it is simply the thing we all do.

I'm Anna Matteo.

The Associated Press reported this story. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words in This Story

foundation – n. an organization that is created and supported with money that people give in order to do something that helps society

courage – n. the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous

mountain bike – n. a type of bicycle that has a strong frame, thick tires, and straight handlebars and that is used for riding over rough ground

donor – n. a person or group that gives something (such as money, food, or clothes) in order to help a person or organization

contest – n. an event in which people try to win by doing something better than others

check – v. to look at (something) carefully to find mistakes, problems, etc., or to make sure there is nothing wrong with it

lockdown – n. a security measure taken during an emergency to prevent people from leaving or entering a building or other location:

routine – n. a regular way of doing things in a particular order

sustainable – adj. able to last or continue for a long time