It's always good to put a face to a name and meeting Richard Musa was definitely one of those moments to celebrate! Before VBP established a significant presence in Lunsar, the base of operations was Freetown and Richard was the main man. He has owned a bike shop in Freetown for over 20 years and has been connected with VBP ever since the organization began its work.
Richard was instrumental in creating a robust market for quality second-hand bikes in Sierra Leone and was never shy about pushing the envelope to explore if certain items would work. This meant that he was willing to receive used bikes from Capital Bikeshare parts, recognized that hybrid bikes could be a viable choice for many in the city (as opposed to knobby tired mountain bikes), and cemented his shop as the go-to for quality used repair parts.
As the market has become crowded with cheap Chinese made inner tubes, pedals, brake shoes and tires Richard has increased the impact of his shop due to the offering of quality used parts we harvest here in Rockville and send to Sierra Leone.
His most common customers are students, followed closely by entrepreneurs taking their goods to market. There is also a burgeoning demand for bikes that will be used simply for recreation.
Richard has followed Karim's lead and established a cycling club in Freetown that provides support to youth. He has mentored several young people, providing them work at his shop, and a structured safe place to 'be a kid', while supporting their education through paying their school fees. One of these youths, Pablo, was on the big ride in Lunsar with Taylor and was very impressive!
A 2023 goal for Richard is to become the point person for distribution of VBP program bikes in the south and east of Sierra Leone, regions that aren't currently well-served by their work. These areas are very rural with few decent roads and Richard is confident that an infusion of bikes would improve the lives of many in those areas.