AU People

AU People After graduation, Matthew Corson-Finnerty, BFA '07, was looking for adventure, and found it in Guatemala, working for a bike shop called Maya Pedal.   "Maya Pedal reconfigures old bicycles into pedal-powered machinery, devices that once made only require two legs and a willing spirit to operate," Corson-Finnerty explains. "They produce over 14 different designs, everything from electricity generators, to blenders, to washing machines. And after seeing the operation up-close, I am conviced that they can adapt almost any home device to be powered by bike."   Maya Pedal distributes the human-fueled devices to the poor working masses of Guatemala. Their aim is to help indigenous workers gain greater financial security, while simultaneously preserving and honoring the natural wealth of their beautiful country. The organization was founded in 1997 in by a Guatemalan man named Carlos Marroquin, a talented mechanical engineer, in conjuction with a Canadian community bike organization called PEDAL (Pedal Energy Development Alternatives). Maya Pedal has since teamed up with two organizations in the States, Working Bikes of Chicago and Bikes Not Bombs of Boston. These fruitful relationships, in addition to funds and thousands of donated bikes, have brought a great deal of eager volunteers, hungry to learn and give as much as they possibly can. In January 2009, Corson-Finnert joined the ranks of the talented and energetic expatriates, spending more than two months at Maya Pedal.   "What I discovered wasn´t exactly what I anticipated, though I was not terribly surprised," he said. The organization primarily functions as a bike repair and sales shop. "The Wal-Mart sized loads of used bikes that trek down from the states are earmarked primarily for sale. Truthfully it takes a lot of time and money to construct the bicimaquinas (bike-machines), and many sales and even more repairs go toward making them possible." During his time at Maya Pedal, Corson-Finnerty worked on implementing "one of Carlos´ brilliant designs.. several bike blenders, a bicycle water pump, a peanut de-sheller, a corn de-kerneler, a coffee grinder and some new experimental devices. The machines are a wonder to see created, they are often brilliantly simple, utilizing parts in ways that apparently no one else has ever thought to do. "Volunteering at Maya Pedal has been an intensely sastisfying and important experience in a myriad of ways. Every day we get to be in service to the organization and the local community, our skills and labor are invaluable to the viability of the organization. And, of course, we are all learning a great deal about appropriate technology, machines that are right-sized to their purpose and context. Living in rural Guatemala has been an instructive experience, and a very important cultural exchange for me, specifically, coming from the affluent suburbs of Philadelphia. Poverty isn´t an abstraction, or a plea from a charity on TV, I live next door it to it, I play with its children in the street. I gained more from my time in Guatemala than I could have possibly forseen, and absolutely loved every minute of it.   Corson-Finnerty returned to the US in April, and hopes to get involved with the Energy Coordinating Agency in Philadelphia, an organization that does free and low-cost energy retrofitting of low income households in South Eastern Pennsylvania. He's also hoping to connect with a burgeoning urban gardening and local food scene, as well as community bike shops and local craft cooperatives. He spent two days in Alfred demonstrate the making of bicimaquinas to Prof. Diane Cox's sculpture class. At the end of the two-day workshop, Moka Joka had a brand-new, bicycle-powered smoothie maker. /Check out Matthew's blog Email Matthew