You may have heard us claim that each of our bikes donated represents up to four lives improved. In fact sometimes it's even more than that. We took the red Trek seen above and tracked how it may have started its journey in Martinsburg, WV and ended up with Janet in Lawra, Ghana.
Janet participates in a vocational program run through an organization called Action Through Enterprise (ACT). ACT operates in the upper northwest corner of Ghana in an area where food is scarce and the poverty level is cited to be 100%. ACT works within the community to create job opportunities for small business owners to help them build sustainable sources of income to pull themselves out of poverty.
Last year, ACT learned about Village Bicycle Project (VBP) and applied to receive bikes through our partner program. Just last month VBP fulfilled their request for 100 bikes which were donated to students and apprentices in ACT sponsored programs. Janet received the red Trek that arrived on the truck from Accra which may have been donated through Bikes for the World.
Each bike we donate passes through a lot of hands before it ends up with a new owner and its impact is felt in as many lives along the way. To follow that path we have to look back to April when we loaded the container that ended up in Ghana in July. Many of the bikes donated in that shipment came from a collection held at Otterbein United Methodist Church in Martinsburg WV. This was a first time collection held by the women's group, Sister ACTS.
"We're looking forward to donating our bikes to this worthy cause. It's exciting to think they or their parts can be used to help somebody in another country who is without transportation."Mary Duke, Sister ACTS
Once a bike is donated at a collection site it is loaded up and transported back to our warehouse in Rockville. Before these bikes left WV, Otterbein Pastor Mark blessed the bikes and sent them on their way. Back in our warehouse, the bikes wait until the next shipment is going out to one of our many partners around the world. In this case it was Village Bicycle Project Ghana.
Ironically, the day Janet received her bike from the shipment we loaded back in April we were busy loading two more containers heading to the same program. Those containers were loaded in July by two youth groups that joined us for service projects during their summer camps. The impact of a donated bike begins before it ever reaches the Port of Baltimore.
Our first crew came from St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Reston. This youth program took the name Mission Possible and spent the week participating in service projects around the area. The organizers struggled to find community partners who would accept the young crew for projects. At Bikes for the World we try not to turn volunteers away, especially the next generation of volunteers. And we were not disappointed.
Mission Possible helped prep bikes, roll bikes onto the trailer, and even hopped up to assist Jonathan in loading the tougher third levels. This enthusiastic crew of kids was eager to help other kids thousands of miles away.
Dear Jonathan, thank you for letting us help you load the bikes into the container. My favorite part was climbing up with you on the big wooden board and helping load the bikes. And from another, Thank you for helping us help other people.Mission Possible participants
Our second crew came to us through our partner Cyprus Friendship Program, who brings a crew of teens from Cyprus to help us load every summer. This year they participated in a pilot effort with Jerusalem Peacebuilders, that brought teens together from Israel and Palestine. The service projects help bring together the divided teens and show them we are all more alike than different. Read more about this visit.
Those two containers are now on their away across the Atlantic Ocean and will arrive on the shores of Ghana later this fall.This is where we pick up the journey of Janet's red Trek.
Once our containers arrive in Accra, the team of mechanics at VBP work to unload the trucks, inventory the bikes, make any necessary repairs, and immediately load them onto another truck for delivery inland. Abdallah is the country supervisor of the program and he oversees the shipment, working with Taylor, in our office in Rockville.
VBP mechanic Aisha helps unload the bikes for the program. Aisha is currently the only female employed by VBP, she is also a new mother. Aisha gave up a career as a hairdresser to learn mechanics and now works on the VBP team to support her family.
Moro is the lead trainer for the workshops offered through VBP. He can often be found hanging from the back of a truck or on top of the mound of bikes about to leave Accra for the smaller rural communities. Moro is also an onion farmer when not traveling for VBP. Moro lowered the bikes from our container to the unloading crew on the ground for this particular shipment.
Moro helped develop the curriculum for the One Day Workshops offered to new bike beneficiaries. This training model includes finding a local established mechanic to assist the team within the community the day of delivery.
Mr. Malik is the mechanic who helped work with the apprentices and students that received bikes through VBP last month. He is an established local bike mechanic supported by ATE. Mr. Malik received more training and tools as payment for his participation in the distribution. He will also serve as the local shop for parts and repairs, aimed to increase his business with the new bike riders in the community.
Finally, the red Trek makes it to Janet who is beyond excited to receive it. Janet was selected by ATE to participate in the bike workshop. She received a bike because she lives several miles away from the city center of Lawra where she works in a tailor shop as an apprentice. Her bike will shorten her commute by hours every day saving her time and energy to devote to her family and career.
Theresa, likewise, is thrilled to learn that Janet now has a bike to ease her commute. Theresa is the small business owner that ATE paired with Janet for the vocational program. Poverty creates many barriers for apprentices to negotiate on the job training and ATE's assistance is critical for this program's success. Theresa will receive benefits for participating in the apprentice program and she will surely benefit from having an employee that has more energy and focus thanks to this donated bike.
Many thanks to Action Through Enterprise and Village Bicycle Project (as well as sister bike organizations Re~Cycle and Working Bikes who also donated bikes to this effort) for making this partnership work to improve the lives of Ghanaians in the upper northwest region.