Bikes for the World

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Mobilizing Health Care

Yaw Teobol uses his bike to carry
clean water back to his family
In rural Africa, a bicycle is the momentum behind economic development.  A bicycle can deliver goods faster over a greater distance saving time and energy. It can be used to haul four times as much produce or other goods to market or the home, making trips more efficient and lucrative.

The lack of affordable transportation has a direct impact on the quality of life for the poor. The inability to leave a small, rural community severely impacts access to greater opportunity. Two thirds of villagers travel by foot, many spending hours a day walking to clean water sources, markets, and health care clinics.

The obstacle of distance compounded by the lack of transportation and poor roads creates an unbalanced healthcare challenge for many poor Africans struggling to escape poverty. Fewer than 50% of Africans have access to modern medical facilities.
A nurse in Ghana learns to ride a bicycle.
Her bike will allow her to see more patients daily.

Establishing qualified clinics within these small villages is a challenge. Working with limited financial resources makes it difficult for community leaders to come up with a workable sustainable program to protect the well being of their families.

Many rural clinics lack the resources to provide quality care on a daily basis. Qualified nurses often cannot afford to work for the wages offered through these programs. Many nurses cite transportation as the leading cause for leaving a job shortly after accepting it.  When the medical professional quits, the clinic is forced to close.

Over 50% of all Africans live more than four miles from a health facility. It can cost a month's wages for a poor person to hire a motorcycle to take them to a clinic. They, then, have no money left to pay for the drugs necessary to treat their illnesses.

Women often sacrifice pre- and post- natal care endangering the lives of themselves and their children. In an effort to reduce child and maternal mortality, many communities stress the importance of obstetric care.

Obstacles such as poor roads, no cars, and cost can be overcome with one simple solution: a bicycle.  In Ghana and Sierra Leone Village Bicycle Project focuses on empowering women and girls with bicycles to also break education barriers.

"When a school girl can have a bicycle this helps her stay in school longer. Studies have found the longer a girl stays in school, the longer she waits to have children. This increases the healthiness of her life and her children's lives. And so, her life is improved and her children's lives are improved," Dave Peckham Director Village Bicycle Project.

Community Health Worker Zondia Helena Nirisoa
Courtesy: Robin Hammond/Panos
In Madagascar, a community based health system was established to address many of the issues identified above. Bikes donated through Bikes for the World to Transaid in Madagascar are helping to fund this program. The bike project is being run in part by the Community Health Workers who refurbish bikes and sell them to local people at a low cost. Many nurses are also using bikes to attend to patients who live further away from the clinic.

Community Health Workers aim to have effective community participation and supportive community institutions to sustain medical professionals and reinforce healthy home behaviors.  They are also working on maternal, newborn and child health by ensuring high quality primary health care services provided by Community Health Workers. The program aims to increase access to clean drinking water and improved sanitation facilities as well as personal hygiene improvements.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Spotlight on Kenya: Kibera and Mathare

Mathare Valley slum
Nairobi is the capital of Kenya and its largest city. It is the hub of activity for much of Kenya and is sadly surrounded by some of the world's largest slums.

To the northeast is Mathare Valley, one of the country's oldest and worst slums. To the southwest is Kibera, the largest urban slum in all of Africa.

Lack of activities and alcoholism create dangers among residents
Over the past decade, conditions in both areas have improved but residents continue to struggle. Unemployment, lack of education, unsanitary living conditions, drugs and violence and health issues plague this community daily.

In Kibera, for example, until recent years, there was very little electric, no source of clean water, and no sanitary facilities located within the community. This is also common in Mathare Valley. In both slum communities the unemployment rate is upwards of 50% with the majority of actual workers earning less than $1 a day.

Many young students are forced to drop out of school because they cannot afford school fees or manage the long commutes to their classrooms. Many are called upon to help care for their families.

Youth as young as 8 years-old often become the head of household when parents die of AIDS. One out of three adults is living with HIV/AIDS and has a life expectancy after contracting the disease of five years.

Water source contaminated with waste and garbage
There are no hospitals or government clinics within the boundaries of the slums. Much of the health care is offered through charitable organizations or churches who struggle to inform the community of safe health care practices. Many residents are afflicted by dysentery, malnutrition, malaria, typhoid, cholera, infections, tetanus, or polio. Many of the health issues are due to the unsanitary conditions rampant throughout the slum.

It is not uncommon to find one public toilet available to 50-100 people. In Mathare Valley this shared toilet facility is not free and therefore many people are still not using it. Much of the human waste, even from the pit toilets, ends up in the Nairobi river, which serves as a main water source for both slums.

Garbage litters the streets and surrounding areas causing many unsanitary living conditions. Garbage collection and clearing storm drains are two of the main jobs within slum boundaries. Many people head to the city of Nairobi looking for work but with no education, long commutes, and little pay, many end up back at the slum unemployed.

 Providing strong sustainable programs remains a priority for many groups working in this area. Others, like Maji Mazuri are focused on educating and taking care of the youth, many orphaned from AIDS.
Over the past decade, infrastructure is slowly coming to both Kibera and Mathare, bringing roads, pipes with clean water, and slowly, more stable homes.

Bikes for the World supports projects in both Kibera and Mathare through Kenyan partner Wheels of Africa. Our bikes supplied by Wheels of Africa and Maji Mazuri are helping to build a better community within these overcrowded slums.

Youth project beneficiaries with Maji Mazuri
Wheels of Africa supplies a local bike shop within the boundary of Kibera with bikes and parts to bring affordable transportation to this community. Read more about Francis Owino and how he is bringing change to Kibera through a successful sustainable business.

Wheels of Africa also donated many bikes to Maji Mazuri, a Nairobi based non-profit focused on serving individuals living in the surrounding slums. Our donated bikes are helping students who participate in Maji Mazuri's youth program in Mathare attend school. The bikes provide affordable transportation to students allowing them to stay in school where they learn valuable life and professional skills that will impact them and help bring about positive change to their families and the community.

Photo Courtesy: Mazi Mazuri

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Featured Volunteer: The Grovers

The Grovers
The idea here was that we would honor Luke Grover as our Featured Volunteer this month. But to quote his family, "this is a family affair", so it's only fair to honor the whole family.

Seen here is Luke in the back, Mom Michele, and Dad Keith. Missing is Andrew who is busy studying pre-med at Duke University. The family lives in New Jersey where they collect and store bikes for Bikes for the World.

Just last month, however, they got to add 'loading'  to their volunteer resume. With our growing effort really taking off in Long Island we are hoping to see more and more of this committed family.

Andrew Grover
This started with older brother Andrew who introduced Bikes for the World to the family.  Andrew 'found' BfW through John Hopkins University, Director Keith Oberg's Alma Mater. Andrew attended a recognition event in New York for John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, which he was then part of.

There, they showed a JHU produced video about alumnus Keith Oberg and the work he was doing with the non-profit he founded, Bikes for the World. Andrew was immediately interested in the program and contacted us to find out how he could get involved.

Keith O and Keith G started talking and worked out an arrangement where the Grovers would collect and hold bikes in New Jersey until BfW could arrange to pick them up.

Plong and Keith G
Back at our DC headquarters, BfW would connect donors near this Tinton Falls location.  Annually, the Grovers were collecting several dozen bikes, which were sometimes delivered by the Grovers to a collection location at Pennswood Village each fall outside Philadelphia.

One NJ donor, Plong, is originally from Bohol, Philippines and was moved to want to contribute to our newest project in 2012 that was delivering bikes to students in his homeland. We connected Plong with the Grovers and bikes he collected are now with students in Bohol.

Luke worked side by side with is brother Andrew learning how to prep bikes and finding a passion to make a difference around the world.

Luke Grover
When Andrew left for Duke last year, Luke contacted us and told us he was his younger brother and wanted to continue his family's effort. An injury sidelined him last winter but he re-initiated contact with us in the spring ready to keep the wheels turning.

Keith O. worked with the family to connect them with our growing effort just getting off the ground in New York. Area coordinator, Larry Silverman was putting together a network to collect, store, and ship bikes from our first established 'spin off' location. We hoped to divert bikes they collect north to this effort rather than driving them down I-95 to our DC location. This will also help build excitement as we grow this effort in New York.

James, Michele, Luke, Keith, Larry, Keith
This time, the Grovers left the bikes at home and loaded the family into the car to drive to the loading in New York last month. They met with Keith O. and Larry to lend a hand to complete the first ever container loading from this newest BfW location.

It was a long day and complex network of committed volunteers that made it all possible. BfW initiated many of the contacts but look for this group seen here above to continue moving this effort forward. You can read more about the New York loading on our website.