The Power of a Bike in the Hands of a Girl
There are few places in this country where a student of the sixth grade is required to walk over three miles to get to school each day. But for Priscah Malofu of Zambia, in Africa, a five mile commute by foot to and from school is what she must face every day. For this sixth grader who has the dream of finishing her education and possibly joining the Army, there is no public bus; if she wants to go to school she must walk. Not only does the walking cause Priscah to frequently be late for class resulting in harsh punishments from the teachers, it causes her to have little energy for the lessons, therefore leaving her with less motivation to study. It is this horrible cycle that causes Priscah and many of her school mates to fall behind or simply drop out of school… But just as this situation seemed to worsen an organization by the name of World Bicycle Relief came to light and envisioned a solution in the form of bikes…
World Bicycle Relief is an organization that is on a mission to empower impoverished peoples through bikes. Since its creation in 2005 by SRAM Corporation, WBR has provided over 75,000 specialty designed bikes to areas in need. Not only has WBR provided bikes, it has also trained nearly 700 local mechanics to ensure the longevity of the bikes and the organization. WBR started its work after the 2004 Ocean Tsunami which left Sri Lanka in shambles. Partnered with World Vision, WBR designed, manufactured and distributed over 24,400 bikes to the area so that the people of Sri Lanka could have access to necessities such as healthcare, jobs and education. Data collected two years after the distribution of the bikes showed that “88% of recipients continued to depend on bicycles for livelihood activities” (WBR).
For WBR the success in Sri Lanka was just the beginning. Seeing the locals of that area regain their ability to move quickly and without large amounts of effort, inspired the organization to expand its vision and branch out to other countries in need. Soon WBR’s work found its way to Africa and in 2006 it began work with a USAID-funded consortium led by World Vision International in partnership with CARE International, Africare, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Expanded Church Response (ECR) and the Salvation Army to provide close to 23,000 bikes to health care professionals and volunteers so that they could better service people suffering from AIDS. And in 2009 WBR expanded to Zimbabwe and Kenya in order to meet the ever increasing demand for bikes within the world of social enterprise.
Now in 2011 World Bicycle Relief has shifted its attention to students in the African nation of Zambia. Here, the organization found there was an undiscovered potential for bikes to change the way of life for many young children, like Priscah, trying to get an education. Studies done concluded that the majority of students in Zambia have to travel upwards of three miles, each way to get to school, resulting in over 37% of them missing school regularly. And “100% of students who lived over one hour from the school reported arriving 30-60 minutes late to school, 2-5 per week” (WBR). These staggering statistics became the motivation for WBR to create its latest program, Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program (BEEP). So far BEEP has redesigned (based on the local needs) and distributed over 50,000 bikes to children having to travel long distances to access primary or secondary education. The results have been profound. Children with bikes are now able to complete the distance to school in sometimes a third of the time it would take them to walk, leaving more time before and after school to complete household chores and review notes. Not only have the bikes provided reliable transportation, they have also provided a sense of security and pride to those students using them to make education more accessible.
A Bit About the Bike:
”The World Bicycle Relief (WBR) bike is branded as “Buffalo” in Africa. We chose that name because it is a local African animal known for being tough, strong, and able to carry big loads. Exactly what we want our bike to be known for. In some swahili speaking countries, we use the local swahili name for Buffalo which is “Nyati”, just to make the bike more local.”