Organisers in the Czech Republic have launched a project similar to Great Britain’s Jolly Riders Foundation, whereby anyone can donate an old bicycle to a child in Africa. Although in operation only briefly, Kola pro Afriku (Bikes for Africa) has already taken off and is attracting broad interest.
“The idea of the project is to send used bicycles to children in Africa, in particular in Gambia, to help them better access their schools. At the moment a lot of children have to walk between five to 10 kilometres a day to get there and in practical terms it means that some just fail to show up – it’s too far. Imagine walking two hours to get to school and two hours back. That’s really tough. So, the idea is to support them, so they can get to school. Once they have any education they will also have more options in their lives.”
How long has the project been running? And how would you gauge the public response so far?
“We are a very young organisation and the project has only been running for four months. But the response from the Czech public exceeded our expectations and has been great. Already there are some 30 drop-off spots we are cooperating with around the country where people can donate their bikes, and altogether we have already collected roughly 800 bicycles. We have barely even started and we spread the word through the media and so on. But we are so pleased and moved by the response, which has been beautiful.”
Because a lot of the donated bikes are older they also need to be serviced before they are sent: how is that aspect of the project being handled?
“First all the bikes will be sent to central storage where we can keep thousands of bikes and there, there will be people ready to fix them up, either people who been unemployed or others doing community service or who are on probation. Some of those taking part in this stage of the project may only recently have gotten out of jail after five or 10 years and ‘nobody wants them’, they are alone. In this respect, we are not only trying to help kids in Africa but also people here who are on the margins. After that, we can send the container to Gambia.”
“I think it will be quite soon after the rainy season in Gambia which means September of this year. Ideally we would like to send someone over for around a month each year and we will be cooperating with Great Britain’s Jolly Riders, to teach them how to fix the bikes, and to send some spare parts and tools. That way, we can also make sure the bikes don’t end up on a junk pile but are being used and that the kids are using them to get to school.”