8 years ago my life changed forever when my friend Paul Sherwen insisted we bring bicycles to this region. From the first minute I stepped foot in Karamoja, I knew why Paul loved this place, we invite you to continue the journey in Pauls memory, come Ride Karamoja and the Warrior Trails.
15 years ago, I was looking to do something to help others. I am a cyclist, road, mountain, you name it and thought that bikes could make a difference. I had met Michael Linke who was living in Namibia and was trying to get bikes for health workers, who with a bike, can visit 5 times the number of sick with a bike. This made sense, my wife Brenda and I started Bicycles for Humanity with the simple goal of sending one container of bikes to Michael and Namibia.
I was not a believer in the NGO, Non government Organization model, where people solicit money form you for whatever cause and then tell you what they are going to do with that money to make a difference. With this model, the bulk of the money stays with the NGO to cover wages, office , staff, vehicles, travel, you name it and only a small percentage gets to the people. Our model was all volunteer, every cent would go to the cost of shipping bikes. We collected 500 bikes, organized a fundraiser, shipped the bikes and then a fund thing happened.
People started calling us from all over the world asking if they could start a chapter, collect and send bikes and use the model we had started. It turns out that others felt that grassroots was important, that making a difference for the goodness of helping others was important, that working for nothing, but the simple joy of being a part of positive change was good enough.
Paul was not a big fan of the NGO model, he had seen over a lifetime the waste in Africa an how the money never gets to the people. I think it is why Paul immediately joined us on the journey of providing the gift of mobility a bicycle provides to those in need.
One container, turned into over 50 chapters globally who have delivered over 160,000 bicycles to 13 African countries and the program keeps growing to this day. I am proud to say that we are now the largest globally and we still have no staff or overhead of any kind. NGO's tell me, we could be bigger if we could tax receipt and build a big team. Major Schools of business have called and studied our movement and come back with, it should not work, but it did. Almost all of our volunteer base goes to Africa, they get engaged with the African teams and together lives re changed forever.
The grassroots model does work , Common Sense Community Development works and all that we have learned in the past from building Bicycles for Humanity will be carried forward into Ride Karamoja and our new trail building program. To support the new trail building program, Bicycles for Humanity has started a new program we call a SEC, a Skills Empowerment Centre. Traditionally Bicycles for Humanity sent 500 bikes in a container to a community, but with our trail building efforts, we have developed a model of shipping 10 bikes, plus support get, helmets, cycling clothing, spare parts backpacks for 10 riders to become guides and as an incentive for young riders to do good in their community and if they do, they get to ride a mountain bike as part of the local club program. Please visit www.bicycles-for-humanity,org for more information, or www.b4h-cycling-academy.com
When Paul and I started Bicycles for Humanity, we never imagined it would grow to over 160,000 bikes and still growing. Grassroots movements work.
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