Bicycles for Humanity: Donate Bikes, Change Lives

uukumwe bike shop nkurenkuru namibia photo
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The Uukumwe ("Togetherness") Bike Shop in Nkurenkuru, Namibia. Photo via Bicycles for Humanity Colorado.

An inexpensive, environmentally friendly form of transportation anywhere, bicycles are a true lifeline in Africa, where they allow health-care workers to visit three to four times as many patients as they could on foot, help struggling entrepreneurs expand their markets and keep more of their profits, and encourage children to go to school. In fact, according to Bicycles for Humanity Colorado (B4H), African girls are 70 percent more likely to attend school if their family owns a bike. But even a cheap set of wheels is a big expense for someone living on $1 a day. That's where groups like B4H come in. Since its founding in 2007, Denver-based Bicycles for Humanity Colorado has distributed more than 800 used bikes to rural Namibian communities, where local residents are trained as mechanics and managers and the containers the bikes are shipped in are painted and retrofitted to become bike shops, known as Bicycle Empowerment Centers (BECs). Some of the bikes are given to mobile health-care workers, outreach volunteers, school children, and other worthy beneficiaries, while others are sold to fund the purchase of additional bikes and invest in community health clinics.

Free Bikes for Health-Care Workers
The organization, part of an international grassroots network initiated in British Columbia, has already opened up two bike shops, in Nkurenkuru and Singalamwe, and is working to raise funds for a third, in Katima, a rural town 1,000 kilometers from the country's capital that, like the others, has limited health-care facilities and high HIV infection rates. "Donated bikes enable health-care workers to travel deeper into the bush delivering critical medications on a consistent basis," says B4H Colorado co-founder Josh Pace. The bike shops are also giving local people their first paying jobs and generating money to buy new school supplies for area children.

B4H Colorado raises money and collects bicycles throughout partnerships with like-minded local companies such as ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours, which is donating $100 to the organization for every person who books its 45-day trip from St. Petersburg to Istanbul, and the Wheatridge Cyclery, where customers can get a store credit toward a new bike when they bring their old one in to donate to B4H Colorado.

Not in Colorado? There are 25 other B4H chapters in Canada, the United States, the Netherlands, and Australia where you can help "change the world two wheels at a time."