Friday, June 02, 2006

VILLAGE BIKE PROJECT: A Great Example To Follow

I received an email yesterday from someone spreading the word about a bicycle donation drive that was scheduled to take place in New York on June 4th program that Bikes Not Bombs was promoting. A quick Google search led me first to Bikes Not Bombs and then to the Village Bike Project (VBP) in Ghana. Bikes Not Bombs says that since September 2002 it has shipped nearly 2,000 bicycles and tons of parts to the Village Bicycle Project.

Not only does Bikes Not Bombs send bikes to Ghana through the Village Bike Project but it is one of five organizations that have combined to send THIRTY TWO CONTAINERS of bicycles to Ghana totaling over 8000 bikes as of June 2006.

The organizations that have collected the bikes are:

Bike Works from Seattle, Washington, 7 containers
Bikes Not Bombs from Boston, Massachusetts, 6 containers
Re~Cycle from Mersea, England, 4 containers
Recycle a Bicycle from New York, New York, 1 containers
Working Bikes Co-operative from Chicago, 2 containers
Bikes for the World from Washington,D.C., 3 containers
Village Bicycle Project from Moscow,Idaho, 1 containers

Moscow, Idaho?!? I had never heard of the place. But then I learned that that is the home of The Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute (PCEI), the mastermind behind the VBP.

The Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute is committed to increasing citizen involvement in decisions that affect our region's environment through community organizing and education. It would take another article, (and a long one at that) to explain all of the great things that PCEI is doing, so I will have to save that for another day and stick to the subject of the Village Bike Project.

PCEI says that "Village Bicycle Project has three program areas to improve access to bikes in Africa, working specifically in Ghana:

1- sending donated bikes
2- teaching bike maintenance
3- providing improved tools for bike repairers

They continue to say -

These three components work together to nurture sustainability for the bicycle as serious transport in the region.

The centerpiece is of the program are their One-day maintenance and repair workshops. At the end of these workshops, the participants are eligible to buy a bicycle for half the normal price. PCEI says that as of August 30, 2005, the Village Bike Project has held 66 of these workshops, and more than 1,222 people have received bikes.

The improved mobility provided by the bikes means reduced poverty, as the owners have better access to their farms, jobs, markets, schools, and health care.

The VBP gives credit to the Peace Corps volunteers who have provided connections to the recipient communities and acted as collaborators. The Peace Corps volunteers often host VBP's programs. As of the posting of PCEI's web page on the Village Bike Project, the Peace Corps volunteers had hosted 45 workshops in 20 different communities throughout Ghana.

In addition to making bicycles available to the various communities in Ghana, VBP leaves a set of tools in each village. Tools are extremely scarce in the rural areas of Ghana so they "give a set of tools to be kept in the care of someone who will make them available to all who participated in the workshop."

Since I have promised to keep these articles short, I will end here, but if you are a bike enthusiast, and environmentalist, or someone interested in improving the quality of life in African communities, you owe it to yourself to visit the web sites of the participants in the Village Bike Project. Each of these fascinating organizations has an interesting and inspirational story, and they provide a Great Example To Follow.

Bike Works
Bikes Not Bombs
Recycle a Bicycle
Village Bicycle Project
The Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute