Check out Adama's pink Magna above. This is the bike she rides to and from school every day. Now that she has a bike, Adama is becoming a better student. She absolutely loves school, especially English. Since she started riding to school she has cut her six mile commute time in half. She is now always on time and never misses a day of class.
Adama is a 15 year old student at Maria Ines Junior Secondary School for girls in Lunsar. This is where she was first introduced to Village Bicycle Project (VBP), our partner in Sierra Leone. Fortunately for Adama, Maria Ines is partnered with VBP and offers a Learn To Ride program and Bike Library right there at her school. This gave her immediate access not only to a bike, but instruction on how to ride it.
A Bike Library is exactly what it sounds like, but instead of checking out a book, you check out a bike. Schools around Sierra Leone, with the help of VBP, offer these donated bikes to help keep girls in school. When VBP formed many years ago they immediately identified the importance of getting a bike into the hands of a young girl. However when they tried to introduce bicycles in the communities, the boys kept stealing them. Their answer? The Bike Library. And it's working.
For Adama learning to ride a bike became much more than just a quicker path to school, it put her on the fast track, literally, to transforming her life. When Adama was walking to school she spent 3-4 hours every day just commuting to class. When she checked out her library bike her morning commute dropped to under an hour. Then it was 40 minutes. Then 30. The faster she rode, the longer her day seemed; she had more time for homework, errands, chores, and of course riding her bike. It wasn't long before Adama developed a new love- cycling. And not just riding a bike, but racing.
So when her school hosted a field day that included a bike race, Adama was first in line to sign up. And she won. She didn't receive a blue ribbon for winning, but she did receive a backpack, schoolbooks, and pens...it was after all a race put on by her school. Oh, and a bike! Adama also won a hybrid bike, but she continued to use her borrowed mountain bike to get to and from school because the roads were so bad from her village to school she needed those beefier tires for the terrain.
Before long she was bitten by the racing bug. She wanted to go farther and faster. She had heard VBP had also started a racing team in Lunsar and she wanted to join. She ended up selling her hybrid to get a road bike, a donated GT from BfW, that she had dreams of racing. She took what was left over and registered to join the Lunsar Cycling Team.
Soon she became the youngest member of the Lunsar Cycling Team and her teammates welcomed her like family. This connection became invaluable to Adama. At home, her father was sick and she was struggling to deal with his illness. Adama lost her mom years ago and now that her father was sick she was losing hope about her future. Getting out on the pavement, pounding those pedals, concentrating on her cadence and focusing only on catching the jersey in front of her provided an escape.
Note: Even before we finished writing this article we had sadly learned that Adama's father passed away. Now she only has her grandmother, who is too old to properly care for her. Her cycling family has currently taken her in to make sure she can continue going to school to graduate.