Bike + Mechanic = Prosperous
For Village Bicycle Project (VBP) delivering bicycles in Ghana and Sierra Leone is only a job half done. The critical component to the sustainability of this program is extending the life of the bicycles through highly trained mechanics accessible to the new bike owners. When VBP considers a new village to add to their growing list of beneficiaries they look at the need for bikes and the support system available to maintain them.
Let's be honest, your old bike ended up in Africa for a reason. You likely didn't buy it new and it may not have been in perfect working condition. It may have only had a flat tire you didn't feel like fixing, but it may have been something more extensive or expensive to repair or replace that prompted you to donate it.
No matter its journey, now it's in Africa where tools, parts, and skills are less abundant or more sparsely scattered. Once the bike is repaired, there's still the challenge of keeping it rolling in its new environment. It's not likely to find a hook in a sheltered garage as it once had in the suburbs of Washington DC to keep it dry and dust-free any more.
Any time we are working with a local community we invite the local mechanics to join our classes so that they can help, and also meet the new bike owners who should become future clients.Joshua Poppel, Executive Director Village Bicycle Project
Prosper Dzandu is one of VBP's master mechanics operating in Ghana. Prosper travels around the country with VBP to participate in the One Day Workshops offered through the program. These classes not only bring bicycles to remote areas of the country, but also further train local mechanics to help maintain the new fleet of bikes arriving.
Prosper originally got involved with bikes when he asked to work on a project with VBP. He had been a Kente weaver, but retrained when this opportunity landed in his village. He employed his meticulous skills he learned as a weaver and applied them to the intricacies of bicycle mechanics. VBP helped him obtain a full set of tools and Prosper moved to open his own bike shop.
His shop is known as, No Rush in Life Bicycle Workshop, and as more bikes arrived in his community his business continued to grow and thrive. Prosper started working out of a simple wooden shack which wasn't secure. He and his wife slept there every night to protect his tools and stock. As his business began to succeed, Prosper was able to upgrade to a more secure metal structure, allowing him to go home every night with his family.
Prosper is now also able to train and employ several apprentices who help run his business. Since 2016, Prosper serves as the local consignee on VBP containers, giving him access to bikes and parts coming into the country adding significant value to what he has on hand to sell.
After becoming his own boss, Prosper found his new career as a bike mechanic liberating and rewarding. He is a great communicator and his enthusiasm to share his craft is evident in every workshop he runs with VBP. By training apprentices in his own shop he is helping to boost local economy while freeing himself up to continue working with VBP.