There are many great organizations that take discarded bicycles in good shape, and ship them to Africa. In poor communities, a bicycle can literally have a transformative impact on someone’s life – shortening the many miles walked to school, or work, or to a clinic for regular appointment, helping transport goods to market, or becoming an essential tool for a rural health care worker visiting patients.
Recently in Mozambique I came across a sight that shouted “bikes made a lot of lives easier today.” At a rural Catholic hospital, the waiting area was literally over-run with parked bicycles. I counted more than 100.
In fact, the bikes carried little tags on the handlebars just like you would get for your SUV in the hospital parking lot in America. Except there was no car parking lot at this hospital – none of the patients, and only a handful of the clinicians, can afford a car.
So this weekend, we were happy to be able to help the Village Bicycle Project load their 100th container of bicycles, bound from Seattle for Africa. VBP has been shipping bikes for more than 10 years, and has shipped over 45,000 bicycles. And they have a good system on the ground in Ghana and other (primarily West African) countries to ensure that these bicycles have real impact. They run classes, train mechanics, and emphasize getting girls on bicycles.
Village Bicycle Project is one of the many organizations on the list of international bike nonprofits I am developing. I still welcome your contributions to that list – I have gotten a lot of email about it, and will post an update soon. But meanwhile, check out VBP’s new website, and join me in congratulating VBP on reaching the 100 container milestone. That’s a lot of bikes!
PS: My wife Lyanda also posted her perspective on this on her blog The Tangled Nest. It’s a family blogging affair!