Bikes for the World

Monday, November 7, 2016

Namibian eBox: Uukumwe

Bicycles for Humanity supported eBox Uukumwe
Now that we've established where the Malagasy eBox model came from we've been taking a closer look at some of those initial entrepreneurial bike shops in Namibia.

The first BEN Namibia eBox started in 2006 and the program has now expanded to include over 30 businesses spread across Namibia. They all began by fixing and selling bikes, but evolved to carry more products and support the community in many diverse ways.

TKMOAMs supports health initiatives and volunteers.  DEEP expanded by adding a computer workshop and Internet Cafe. Today we take a look at Uukumwe Bike Shop in Nkurenkuru, one of the northernmost shops in Namibia supported by BEN Namibia. Uukumwe also started by supporting health care initiatives and today continues to bring positive change to the community by helping to educate local kids.
Michael Linke and Markus Kasoma

Markus Kasoma was a home-based care volunteer for HIV-positive people in Nkurenkuru when he got involved with BEN Namibia. He would often travel more than 3 miles to reach patients. In a town with no public transportation and poor roads if any, villagers walked everywhere.

Laina is HIV-positive and a patient of Markus's. Markus would visit Laina once or twice a week to provide counseling, check in on her treatment, and to deliver more pills when needed.

Laina lived in extreme poverty with five other women and lots of children. "Many of them eat only once a day," reported Markus. Hunger is something he saw a lot during home visits. It was not unusual to find patients who had stopped taking their medications after fighting nausea from taking the pills on an empty stomach.

When BEN Namibia came to town in 2008 to help establish Uukumwe Bike Shop, Markus immediately signed up for training. He quickly learned the ins and outs of bike mechanics and became the shop manager. He split his time between Uukumwe and volunteering with the Red Cross.

Nkurenkuru Kindergarten
Now there are bikes everywhere in Nkurenkuru. And Uukumwe is extending a helping hand by using profits from the shop to make a difference in the community.

Many of the local eBoxes use proceeds from bike sales and repairs to help feed orphanages and affect the lives of children.

This kindergarten class receives support through Uukumwe. In fact, with the help of Bicycles for Humanity Colorado, a second container arrived that became a classroom for these students.
Gothard, Uukumwe Manager

Today Uukumwe is going strong. Gothard has taken over as the shop manager and continues the success built by Markus. Gothard was trained as a mechanic and assumed the new position when Markus moved on in 2012.

Markus followed his dream of joining the Namibian Police Force and is now a constable at the Nkurenkuru police station.

Many shop managers move on to accept bigger and better positions and Director of BEN Namibia, Michael Linke sees that as a positive thing. "With massive unemployment (27%) if you can run a bike shop well, you stand out to other potential employers, and the security of a government job or a well paid job in tourism is very appealing."

Passing the wrench on to the next mechanic is building a stronger Namibia. BEN trained mechanics go on to become maintenance workers, welders, and many other skilled laborers. The eBoxes continue to grow and expand, introducing new skills to new workers... and the cycle continues...

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