Rebuilding a Country with Bicycles
The Village Bicycle Project (VBP) is not only one of Bikes for the World's (BfW) longest standing partners, but also the second leading partner receiving bikes from our program. BfW started shipping bikes to this group in 2005 to their Ghanaian operation and added Sierra Leone in 2012. In the last two years BfW has more than doubled the number of bikes donated to the VBP effort in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone is regularly ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world. Despite exploitation of its natural mineral wealth, 70% of its population lives in poverty. From 1991 to 2002, a Civil War ravaged the country and left many of its residents displaced. As the country was still recovering from the aftereffects of the war, it then became the epicenter for the Ebola outbreak in 2014. Although the Village Bicycle Project (VBP) had to pause its operations during the outbreak, it has otherwise been operating consistently since 2010 and the bike related programs have steadily grown in scope and distribution over the last eight years.
The majority of VBP's programs are focused on their One Day Workshop where participants receive a bicycle for a highly subsidized price. In addition to the bicycle, the Workshop also provides 3-4 hours of hands on bicycle maintenance so that the new recipient can make small repairs to their bike and fix a flat tire.
"We don't distribute the bikes for free because we've always felt that having a small financial buy-in increases the value of the bike and the sense of responsibility of the recipient," Joshua Poppel, Executive Director Village Bicycle Project.
Another significant aspect of the programs offered through VBP is the Learn to Ride Class. Due to the prevailing gender stereotypes in West Africa, many women never have the chance to learn how to ride a bicycle. To combat this problem, VBP has been hosting Learn to Ride classes where women and girls have access to a bicycle and can help each other learn balance and the basics of riding a bike. They typically host this class in every community before offering the One Day Workshop to ensure that a sufficient number of women can ride a bike and take advantage of the bicycle distribution.
Significant content supplied for this post by Village Bicycle Project.