A campaign that hopes to transform the lives of people in Africa has just been launched by Kilkenny Rotary Club.
School Bikes for Africa aims to collect unwanted bikes in Kilkenny and forward them to people in Africa for who this simple mode of transport can transform their daily lives.
Children in Africa often have to travel 10km or more to get to school and back in a day. Walking in the extreme heat can be difficult, leaves the students tired and unable to perform to the best of their abilities.
Jason Dempsey, who is heading up the local campaign for Kilkenny Rotary, said these bikes are a lifeline for kids in Gambia. Having a bike gives them a massive ‘leg up’ in life.
Rotary President, Jimmy Connolly, pointed out that for us in Ireland a bike is a fun thing, but in Africa it makes a huge difference to someone’s education.
Rotary’s School Bikes for Africa invites people to donate their unwanted bikes to them. Rotary take the bikes in and arranges for them to be brought to Loughan House Open Prison where the inmates refurbish the bikes before they are transported to Africa.
Not only does the project help those who receive the bikes in Africa, but in Loughan House the men are learning the skills of bicycle repair, getting FETAC qualifications, and making themselves more employable on their release. It also gives the men a sense of satisfaction and achievement.
Partners in the project are the Dunmore Recycling and waste Disposal Centre and the project is fully supported by CDS Architectural Metalwork and Kilkenny County Council.
Speaking at the launch of the project, Jason Dempsey said that in Ireland, when you get your first bike as a child it represents joy and a sense of freedom, in our fortunate position in the Western World. But it means a lot more in some parts of the world.
For example in Africa owning a bike sees school attendance rise by 28%, and a massive 59% improvement in grades.
Entrepreneurs can also avail of these bikes. Owning a bike, for them, is also life changing - they can carry five times more products than when walking and travel four times the distance.
Healthcare workers are another group that receive the bikes and this allows them to get to more patients.
“The opportunity is great, the impact immediate,” the launch was told.
This is the first year that Kilkenny Rotary Club have taken up the Bikes for Africa project however other branches have been involved in recent years and worldwide 161,000 bikes have been donated to people in 13 countries.
The Kilkenny Rotary Bikes for Africa project has had wonderful support so far from Kilkenny County Council, the Dunmore Recycling Centre and CDS Metalwork.
Eamonn Morrissey at the County Council invited Jason to the Dunmore centre where he donated a metal transport container to the project. An email to CDS in Ballyfoyle asking them to help fix up that container was met with a “we’re in” in ‘seconds,’ Jason said, and the lads there have done an amazing job renovating the container and welding information panels to the front, so everyone knows what it is for.
Importantly the container is now in place at Dunmore Recycling Centre - you can’t miss it! The staff in Dunmore have given their wholehearted support to the project and had even collected a few bikes for the project on the very day Jason told them about it!
Now it’s over to you, the people of Kilkenny. Do you have bikes in your shed that are never used but you’ve always thought they are too good to just ‘dump’? Or maybe in a few weeks time there will be ‘spare’ bikes in your house if Santa is kind enough to bring new wheels to people? Please consider taking your unwanted bikes to the container in Dunmore giving them a second life with the School Bikes for Africa appeal.
The bikes must have a minimum 12” wheel, have mountain bike tyres only and must be sturdy bikes that can withstand rough terrain.