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.


Fixing a Flat Yourself

Riding a bike changes lives, we know that for sure.  But what about when the inevitable flat tire happens?  VBP bike riders don’t let that stop them, as they have the skills to fix that flat themselves. VBP One Day Maintenance Workshops, which we provide to everyone who purchases one of our discounted bicycles,  teaches the art of fixing a flat.  We also teach how to adjust brakes and gears and how to listen for the start of bigger problems. VBP bikes “are quiet”, we are often told, because the owners know how to keep things in tip-top shape.  Thanks to VBP training of village bike mechanics, riders also have a place to go if they need help.

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!

Ama’s own bicycle

We’re back in Ghana’s Eastern Region this week for more One-Day Workshops. This is the second time we’ve held programs in Apeguso, and the first time in neighbouring Frankadua, 4kms further east.

Amongst the first day’s participants was 15 year old Ama Akpo, who we recognized from the Grass-Track Race meet held here last weekend. Ama finished 2nd overall amongst the women, and is 7214898842_447f518f28_zseen here below winning her first round heat.

Ama, who lives in Apeguso on the Hohoe road, was born deaf, and speaks only through her own special touch and sign. She also never stops smiling, and had no problems following the workshop led by our instructor, Abokyi Samudu.

After demonstrating a puncture-repair, Ama was the first participant to successfully reassemble a tyre and tube to the rim. After showing Abokyi, she turned around to the class and showed everyone else.

During the other practicals, where participants are asked to revise each demonstration on their own bicycle, Ama was always looking around her, copying what others were doing, and not returning to her seat until she had fully understood and completed the task.

It’s not unusual for our bicycles to end up shared between families or households, and our host in Apeguso, Vida Vivie, told us that Ama had been borrowing her bicycle, after only learning to ride 4 months ago.7214898296_ce5948e8e1_z

At the end of the session, Ama chose her own bicycle – an old Specialized Hardrock mountain bike, which will test her newly acquired maintenance skills, and save her the 8km roundtrip walk to her father’s farm.

Ko-Nandom, Ghana

Welcome to the new Village Bicycle Project blog. From here we’ll be regularly posting news and updates on our work and whereabouts.

To begin, today we’re in Ko, a tiny village about 14kms from the Burkina Faso border in the Namdom province of Ghana’s Upper West Region.

St Monica’s Widows and Orphans Movement (WOM) contacted the VBP earlier this year requesting bicycles and workshops for its members. As WOM’s coordinator Sylvester Angwanonenoah Zakpalah-Dere told us; “most widows and orphans lose rights and ownership to whatever properties they might have acquired with their late husbands to relatives of the deceased… In carrying out their daily chores, they have to walk long distances to attend their group meetings, farms, markets, hospitals, church services, and funerals.”

Liz Bagent (pictured), spent two days in Ko meeting with the community’s organizers who had sent representatives from no less than 11 villages. We’ve since allocated 100 bicycles to Ko and plan to return in early May for some final preparations before holding programs in June.

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