Posts Tagged ‘Wheels of Change’

Wheels of Change

1396741_78421616I don’t know if you had this same sort of experience as a kid, but for me, my bicycle was so much more than simple conveyance. It was escape, freedom, autonomy, noisemaker with a playing card clothes-pinned to the frame to clack in the spokes, or the opposite, stealth sneaky quiet getabout. I recognize many parents in many communities don’t allow the same kind of free-range childhood I had–be home when the streetlights come on and don’t get in trouble–but even in the time of hyper-scheduled playdates and organized activities, even the simplicity of wind in the hair and personal control over direction, speed, and route that a bike affords is an amazing gift.

Think what a bike can mean for a poor rural villager in Africa…saving time and energy when going miles away to source clean water, carrying lovingly made or grown items to market to sell, connections forged more strongly between family and friends…it is such a simple game changer for day-to-day life. Wheels of Change International collects donated bicycles in the United States and ships them overseas to communities in Africa. When the shipping container arrives, the actual container becomes a bike shop, and locals are trained in bicycle mechanics plus business training. Voila–an industry is born. Donate a bike and change a life–100% of donations of cash, equipment, and materials goes directly to the recipient community in Africa, and more than 10,000 bikes have been donated (400 bikes just shipped to Namibia at the end of February). You can also pitch in as a volunteer, here, stateside, when shipping containers need to be loaded (new chapter startups for the organization mean that a W.O.C. group might already be near you, and needing your help–check the website for local chapters and volunteer opportunities).

Wheels of Change—Biking for a Better World

In economically challenged African communities, a bicycle can radically transform an individual life, family, even an entire village. A healthcare worker can visit four times as many clients by biking instead of walking; girls are 70% more likely to attend school with the increased ability to get there with ease as well as saving time with other jobs they must do (collecting water, going to market, etc) that are prioritized above education; a person biking can carry five times the load of a walker (food for the family, crafts and goods to market, etc). Wheels of Change along with the Bicycling Empowerment Network is getting donated bicycles into villages throughout Namibia and working to expand to other nations. In addition to the donated bicycles, the shipping containers, that can hold 400 bikes plus parts and tools, become shops themselves, serving the community with repairs and maintenance. These Bicycle Empowerment Centres bring revenue to the community and provide employment. Those funds can then be reinvested for school uniforms, micro-loans for new businesses, food and care for orphans, education programs, and more. It’s a win/win all around.

We can’t just put a postage stamp on a bike and ship it to a community in need, but what we CAN do adds us to the win/win/WIN equation…Austin-Lehman Adventures is donating a chunk of money for each upcoming biking tour booked…the progressive company’s travel clients have already been responsible for getting bikes to Namibia, and is now creating a shipment for Nairobi, Kenya. So you have a brilliant bike vacation (some of ALA’s upcoming bike tour destinations include Provence, Tuscany, Germany’s “Romantic Road”, Switzerland, the Black Hills of South Dakota, and more) and change the world just by participating.

The May shipment of bikes to Nairobi marks the first official initiative of the just-established nonprofit, Africa-based Wheels of Change founded by Michael Linke (http://www.benbikes.org.za/namibia/) and represented in Billings by Austin. Linke has helped establish 26 up and running bikes shops throughout Namibia, including the Billings-supported shop in Ngoma.

Wheels of Change provides donated bicycles to underprivileged African communities. Donations will help defer the cost of shipping 400 bikes, parts and tools. Through a community effort, ALA has collected the bikes and will pack them for shipment on Mothers’ Day weekend. Collection of bikes, parts and tools began shortly after last year’s spring shipment of bikes to Ngoma, a remote village in the far eastern corner of Namibia. This year’s shipment will go to Nairobi, Kenya.