Bikes are a great transport tool in any environment. They keep their pilots fit, are relatively pollution-free, and are the most efficient method of transforming energy into motion. In developed settings, bikes represent a wonderful transportation alternative to cars. But in more rural areas, they can literally be a lifeline.
Voluntours, a South African charity foundation, started the Bokamoso Bicycle Project in an effort to improve the villagers’ mobility. The closest town to Bokamoso is about a 40-minute walk each way, and taxis don’t service the region due to its rural nature and poor road conditions. The closest city, Mabopane, which provides the region’s shopping centers, is a 3-hour walk away.
UK-based Re-Cycle provides the bikes. Re-Cycle collects donated bikes in and around Colchester, checks out their condition, provides basic repairs, and loads up 350 to 400 bikes per shipping container. All of Re-Cycle’s rehabbed bikes are bound for Africa where they equip several programs, including the Bokamoso Bicycle Project.
The Bokamoso Bicycle Project pays about £2,500 to ship each container. The bikes are then sold to locals to generate just enough money to pay for the next shipment.
Voluntours has placed local Apostolic Pastor Peter Mabasa in charge of the Bicylce Project. Currently Pastor Peters and another villager are training as bicycle mechanics to keep the Project, and the local villagers’ bikes, running smoothly.
People for the first time are aware how disadvantaged they were transport-wise. With bicycles they can now afford to visit, shop, and travel to those places that were out of reach to them. Some are already thinking of running businesses with their bikes delivering bread, milk and meat. Parents are enquiring about how they can get hold of bikes for their kids because the kids want bikes to get to school.
Nigel Pegler of the UK spoke to me about his experience working for the Bokamoso Bicycle Project:
The difference a bicycle can make to a poor South African is amazing. I was told about a district nurse who visited her patients on foot and saw eight patients a day but, after being given a bicycle, she can visit 18 patients. As she is paid per visit, her income has doubled and more people get treatment.
While at Mapoch I lent one of the villagers a bicycle to go to the nearest town. It normally takes him forty minutes each way on foot but by bike he did the journey both ways in thirty minutes!
By setting up a cycle shop we have ensured the bicycles will be maintained. We have created employment for the villagers and they will have cheap transport which for some of the children will mean they do not have to spend hours each day walking to school.
Voluntours is a charity foundation that brings international volunteers to work on a variety of community and environmental projects in South Africa. “Voluntourists” have the opportunity to provide much-needed charity work throughout South Africa as well as to interact with the people and experience the culture on a much deeper level than the typical traveler.
Thanks to Nigel Pegler for the information and photos.