VBP: Movement 4 Mobility

VBP program totals as of late-2016:

  • 106,000 donated used bikes shipped to Africa since 1999.
  • 18,000 new bike owners taught bike repair skills in Ghana and Sierra Leone.
  • 60,000 bike tools distributed in 14 African countries.
  • 3500 (mostly female) students learned to ride a bike in Ghana and Sierra Leone.

Since 1999 VBP has been delivering used bicycles and maintenance skills to rural villages,  allowing new bike riders to get where they need to go quickly and economically.  People are riding to increase farm yields, improve school attendance and grades, and increase incomes.   We know bicyclists arrive 4 times faster than walkers, saving precious time and energy.  People riding a bike can carry four times the weight of someone walking. Farmers, merchants, and people carrying water home are thrilled that life is so much easier. Barriers are reduced and opportunities increased. The village neighbors watch, and a change in cycling culture begins.

 

The Netherlands Donates 400 Bikes for Sierra Leone

Village Bicycle Project is looking for more bikes to keep our programs in Ghana and Sierra Leone thriving. We have already relocated more than 60,000 bikes since 2000.

In September, 2013, The City of Amsterdam donated 400 bicycles to help capacity build our programs in Sierra Leone. We plan to ship the bikes to Freetown in May, 2014:

  • Fietsproject, May 13-14, 2014, is a joint venture between The Village Bicycle Project, Fietsdepot (Amsterdam) and What the Fiets (Utrecht).
  • A team of volunteers from the UK and Utrecht will load a shipping container with 400 bikes on-site at Fietsdepot (Amsterdam) for shipping direct to Freetown.
  • The University of Amsterdam MBA program will evaluate the project effectiveness through an in-company research opportunity for one of its students.
  • The bikes will be distributed through our program of bike maintenance workshops in Sierra Leone. We teach basic bicycle repair as a prerequisite to receiving a bike at half the market price. No-one is excluded from owning a bike through lack of income and we prioritize girls and women into bike ownership. Proceeds from the sale of bikes pay for shipping costs from Amsterdam.

If we can help make bicycling more affordable and more reliable for the lower income majority population, they will choose bicycles for their basic transportation, and soon their leaders may come to choose to promote bicycles with infrastructure and other incentives.

We are working from the bottom to accomplish what Denmark and the Netherlands have accomplished by government action, the transformation to sensible transport, Bicycles !

VBP Trainer Karim Kamara shows an Advanced Class how to adjust derailleurs.

Bringing more long term depth to our programs, we have a recent growing emphasis on advanced training for bike owners and village repairers.  The Sierra Leone team, led by program coordinator Chris Harbert-Erceg, returned recently to Maforki, where we’ve done two previous programs over the last two years, awarding 40 bikes.

Two bike mechanics from the village were there, as well as the father of two girls borrowing VBP Library bikes for their 6 mile round-trip commute to junior high school.  The more people know how to take care of their bikes the better!

Dear Bikes Not Bombs,

Thank you so much for the container you sent to Sierra Leone!  Chris Harbert-Erceg and I, Kimberly Reid, are currently volunteering from the US in Sierra Leone with the Village Bicycle Project.  We just wanted to let you know that the container arrived safely and was unloaded on the evening of April 9th.  Unloading here typically occurs at night because there is less traffic and fewer people around, so there is a lower probability that one of the bicycles will “walk away”.  We started the process at 9pm and finished a little after 1am with approximately 12 people continuously working and several others rotating in and out and keeping their eyes on the equipment to make sure it was safe.  The unloaded happened on Kissy Road which is one of the main and busiest roads in Sierra Leone’s capital city, Freetown. It is also the location of our importer Richard’s bike shop where we are storing this shipment of bicycles.  Traffic on this two lane road had to be directed around us as we started the 4+ hour unloading process.  This unload was also interesting because the electricity in the city was not working so several of us had headlamps while others carried flashlights so we could see what we were doing.  Freetown often does not have power, and this power outage had been going on for about a week already.   Originally we were going to use a generator to turn on the lights in the shop, but we discovered that there was a leak in its fuel tank!  Since there is also a fuel shortage going on here currently, making the price of fuel high, buying more fuel that may also leak out did not seem like a great option. As people say a lot here “we managed” and were able to unload “no problem”.  The shop is now piled high with bicycles and equipment and we are excited to use them to do more programming throughout the country.  Forty of the bicycles have already been shipped to Lunsar, Sierra Leone (about a three hour drive from Freetown) to be fixed up and used in our one-day workshop programs.  The solar panel also arrived in one piece and is also in Lunsar waiting to be set-up.

As I’ve discovered in the past two months of volunteering here, life in Africa can be very challenging, but bicycles really can make a huge difference.  Thank you so much for everything you do and for helping the Village Bicycle Project to exist.  Your efforts are greatly appreciated and are making large impacts in Sierra Leone.  We also want to add that we just heard about the recent bombings in Boston and want you to know that we are thinking of you in this difficult time. Chris and I are still somewhat in shock ourselves that this horrific act happened and hope that you are taking the necessary time to start the healing process.  Unfortunately it shows that organizations like yours are still very much needed and there is still a lot of work to be done.  Once again thank you for all that you do and please know that we are thinking about you.

We’ve attached a few pictures from our unloading and please feel free to use them as you’d like.  Also, if you’d like to know anything about the container or our programming in Sierra Leone, please do not hesitate to contact us at feet926@gmail.com or narcohypnia@gmail.com.

Thanks again,

Kimberly Reid and Chris Harbert-Erceg

Village Bicycle Project

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