Lifestyle Asia

THE MEANINGFUL LIFE

MICHELLE TIANGCO’s Give a Bike Project helps medical frontliner­s with transporta­tion support

- Text SARA SIGUION-REYNA

Michelle Tiangco on how her Give a Bike Program has helped the frontliner­s of Navotas City

When COVID 19 made its appearance known in the Philippine­s, Michelle Tiangco, wife of Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco, was at a loss on what to do. She saw the effects of the Enhanced Community Quarantine order: the drop in the economy, the decrease in morale, and the effects on a workplace when only a skeleton crew can work. Most of all, she saw the struggles that medical frontliner­s faced in her city when they went to work: the scarcity of public transporta­tion meant that those needed to combat the virus were having a hard time doing their mandate.

“Because if we all do our part, no matter how small, it becomes a unified act that would result in a great magnitude of support for all our front liners .”

Michelle got involved when one of the Navotas City Hospital nurses shared a story on social media about her bike being stolen. “She is a frontliner who just recovered from COVID-19 and was still weak but went back to work because there was an increasing number of COVID-19 patients, and then on the second day of her duty, her bike got stolen,” shares Michelle. So affected by her story, Michelle got in touch and offered to buy her a new bike. The nurse was overwhelme­d with joy, and Michelle was then inundated from other frontliner­s asking for bikes. Soon after, Michelle told the story to her friends, letting them know she wanted to be able to help more frontliner­s. Her friends responded by supporting her venture both emotionall­y and financiall­y, and with those donations, she started ordering bikes from a bike shop in Navotas, along the way helping a small business thrive.

Thus was the birth of the Give a Bike. Michelle says that this is her own project, and it does not get any funding from the Navotas local government. Bikes are given to medical frontliner­s who fit the four requiremen­ts of being either a nurse, doctor, medical technician or staff, who work odd shifts, who must commute or walk to work, and know how to ride a bike but cannot afford one. Michelle shares that while there is a shuttle that takes medical frontliner­s to the hospital, there are situations where if the driver gets sick, he has to go into quarantine and the frontliner­s are made to commute for two weeks. Due to the curfew period, public transporta­tion is hard to come by when normal working hours end. This means frontliner­s will be forced to walk. “Given a bike, they can commute with their bikes and at the same time observe social distancing since they no longer have to take public transporta­tion,” says Michelle.

Through the actions of Give a Bike, Michelle feels that this tiny but important bit of kindness helps frontliner­s be empowered spirituall­y. "They feel God's presence through acts of kindness and generosity from strangers that give them bikes,” she says. “They are also mentally and emotionall­y empowered because they feel they are not alone in this fight and that people care and support them.”

Due to the impact on the economy, Michelle says that it quite hard to get donations for this cause. “But God is good and continues to bless me with a lot of generous donors, and because of this it makes me stronger to go on with my project," she says. Other than the spiritual impact on frontliner­s, it has also helped their transporta­tion expenses, and on their days off they can use the bike for themselves, to relax, exercise, or to run their day-to-day errands. It also helps them get home earlier to spend more time with their families. According to Michelle, now that Give a Bike has been able to give bikes to qualified hospital medical frontliner­s, their next batch of recipients will be frontliner­s at isolation centers, and the staff at the Navotas Crematoriu­m, all of who employ frontliner­s who work odd hour shifts. “After I finish with all the medical frontliner­s. I hope to be able to give bikes to our barangay Health workers,” she says.

Michelle believes that each person who has the privilege to do so cannot just wait and rely on our government to support frontliner­s. “Each private individual can do their part to help and support our frontliner­s,” she says. “Because if we all do our part, no matter how small, it becomes a unified act that would result in a great magnitude of support for all our frontliner­s.”

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