Billings, MT, April 21, 2011 – Billings-based organization is preparing to load and ship 350 used bicycles to needy communities in Africa. This will be the second such shipment in a 12 month period.
The Billings-based organizer of the event is Austin-Lehman Adventures (ALA) under the auspices of the local chapter of Bicycles for Humanity (B4H) and a new nonprofit organization called Wheels of Change (WOC). Collection of bikes, parts and tools began shortly after last year’s spring shipment of bikes to a remote village in the far eastern corner of Namibia. This year’s shipment has been designated for delivery to Nairobi, Kenya.
“We are planning a ‘pack out party’ the weekend of May 7th and 8th (8:00 AM until 5:00 PM),” reports the event organizer Dan Austin. “We have spent the last year collecting bikes and have them staged in the field next to Pierce RV and across from the old Sportsmen’s Warehouse off Zoo Drive. Everyone is welcome to come out and lend a hand or just see what we are up to.”
Austin pointed out, “We will also continue to accept donated bikes right up until we close the container doors. Cash donations to help cover the cost of shipping are always welcome. The good folks at Pierce RV have been generous and allowed us to not only use the field as a staging area, but have provided 3 shipping containers for temporary storage.”
Dan Austin is the co-founder of the award-winning active travel company Austin-Lehman Adventures (http://www.austinlehman.com). ALA helped establish the local Billings chapter of B4H in 2010. “Last year’s shipment to Ngoma, Namibia was so successfully and rewarding, we just couldn’t wait to do it again this year,” explained Austin. His active travel company is the primary sponsor for this year’s collection and shipment and he added, “The entire Austin-Lehman team participated in the collection efforts and will be on hand for the pack out.”
This shipment marks the first official initiative of the just-established nonprofit organization Wheels of Change. Wheels of Change is an Africa-based organization founded by Michael Linke (http://www.benbikes.org.za/namibia/) and represented in Billings by Dan Austin. Linke’s Bicycle Empowerment Network (BEN) has helped establish 26 up and running bikes shops (Bicycle Empowerment Centers or BEC’s) throughout Namibia, including the Billings supported shop in Ngoma.
“When Michael asked if we would like to help establish Wheels of Change to enhance and expand our charitable efforts helping the underprivileged people of Africa, I couldn’t say yes fast enough!” noted Austin. “Wheels of Change is going to take a more assertive role and expand not only geographically to other countries in Africa, but with new products and projects as well. We are already working on a solar light project where we will ship and sell lights at the BEC’s, as well as another project helping a young Namibia women establish a Bike Tour Company offering guided day trips to a Township of Windhoek. In time we will be providing mentoring, support and micro loans to a wide range of projects.”
The organizers point out that a bike can change a life in a poor country, but for millions of low-income individuals a new bicycle is financially out of reach. Wheels of Change will coordinate and help establish BEC’s through Africa and soon beyond, to ensure that disadvantaged people are empowered through improved mobility and access to food and water, employment, health care, education, and social opportunities.
The BEN Namibia Website (http://www.benbikes.org.za/namibia/) explains and illustrates how bicycles are transported and delivered to communities in Africa. Up to 400 bicycles can be loaded into one shipping container, along with tools and spare parts. The shipping container itself becomes a Bicycle Empowerment Centre (BEC) which in turn becomes a source of employment and revenue.
BEC provides refurbished bicycles free of charge to healthcare outreach volunteers, school children, and the most deserving beneficiaries. Some bikes are sold (for pennies on the dollar). The income from rentals, sales and servicing is then utilized to create a sustainable environment, creating local jobs and promoting an ongoing program within BEC.
Profits are reinvested in other community projects such as growing food for AIDS orphans, making micro loans to foster new small enterprises, purchasing school uniforms, and the payment of school fees for disadvantaged children.
Linke, Austin and others will be launching assertive fundraising projects in the near future to help cover some of the cost associated with establishing BEC’s and adding additional services and products. Austin asks that anyone wishing to donate money or bikes to the current shipment or support the general work that is being done to call or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-406-671-6067.
Photos from last year’s efforts can be found at: http://www.austinlehman.com/about-us/image-gallery-pages-441.php?gallery=64&category=17