Two-wheeled transportation is golden in Africa

John Robertson

John Robertson

Mountain bike collection day set for Sunday

Having ridden Africa from top to bottom in 2008 and raised money to buy bicycles for African health-care workers, Chris Wille understood the difference mobility can make to a villager’s life.

He and his wife, Linda, and a few friends got busy collecting new and used mountain bikes after he returned from his 12,000-kilometre journey, under the auspices of an organization called Bicycles for Humanity (B4H).

In late 2009, the door of the shipping container was sealed and 400 bikes were delivered to Namibia, a poor country on the southwest coast of the continent.

Back home in Saanich, the Willes contemplated a process that was not only time-consuming, but expensive – the shipping alone cost about $9,000.

“You never know if it does any good,” Chris said of letting others handle distribution on the other end.

Then last year he watched a documentary called Where on Earth is my Bike? It showed how villagers make use of bikes sent their way – “They use their bikes like pickup trucks” – and convinced him of the need to redouble his efforts.

“As soon as I saw (the video) I was in. It galvanized me to do another shipment,” Wille said.

So far nearly 100 more bikes and about a third of the money for shipping have been collected.

To give the project another boost, Bicycles for Humanity is collecting good used mountain bikes – no road bikes – bike parts and cash donations at the Mountain Equipment Co-op Bikefest this Sunday (May 22). The event goes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Stevenson Park behind the Fernwood Community Centre on Gladstone Avenue.

The Willes are getting help from people around the Capital Region, including Central Saanich assistant Fire Chief John Robertson.

“We can put somebody on a bike in Africa for $25,” Robertson said. “We can change a life for $25. “Giving them a bike changes their life … It all of a sudden opens the door to education, to employment.”

Once the shipment arrives in Africa, representatives of B4H partner organization Bicycle Empowerment Network transform the metal box into a portable bike repair shop and teach locals how take the bikes apart and reassemble them as a way of creating jobs.

Having figured out a way to ship disassembled bikes to take up less space, the Victoria group’s goal is to ship 500 this time.

Wille is optimistic that the bikes are out there and encourages people to send them on to a good home.

“There’s tons of good used mountain bikes in people’s garages that aren’t being used,” he said.

For more information on Bicycles for Humanity, visit www.bicycles-for-humanity.org or call 250-479-7415.

editor@oakbaynews.com

 

Fundraiser movies

• Bicycles for Humanity’s Victoria chapter is hosting a movie night fundraiser June 1 at the Star Cinema in Sidney, 9842 Third St.

• The documentaries Hoima Bicycle and Where on Earth is my Bike? will show starting at 6:30 p.m.

• The 8:30 p.m. screening is of Hoima Bicycle and feature film Breaking Away.

• Admission is by donation

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