In the last 15 years, hundreds of thousands of children and adults in 20 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America have received bikes from the non-profit organisation World Bicycle Relief (WBR).
This week, WBR delivered its 500,000th bicycle since it was founded in 2005.
The milestone bike was part of a distribution of 102 bicycles to students at the Bar Union Secondary School in rural Kenya. One of this week’s recipients, 15-year-old Damela Achieng’ Owuor, lives 5km from school and until now has covered the distance on foot: “Before I was given a bike, I was arriving at school very late,” she said. “(Now) I will come to school earlier and will get home earlier to help my parents.”
As part of WBR’s education programme, students like Damela and their parents enter a “study-to-own” agreement, confirming that the bicycle will be used primarily to travel to school. A key element of the agreement, is that the students will own the bicycle when they successfully graduate from school.
“Today, we’re celebrating a huge milestone: 500,000 bicycles for people in developing nations across the world,” said Charles Kimeu, Chief Operations Officer for WBR, Kenya. “It gives me immense joy to see how these bicycles are literally impacting people’s lives and creating new possibilities.”
Distances are often a barrier not only to education but also to healthcare and economic opportunities. WBR addresses this problem by also distributing the rugged, long-lasting and locally assembled bicycles to health service providers and small-business owners. Consequently, their owners are able to visit more patients and reach more customers per day.
In addition, WBR has trained more than 2300 local bicycle mechanics so users have reliable access to maintenance and spare parts. This ensures the programmes are sustainable and have long-term impact.