Tag Archives: BEN Namibia

Bike shop opening ceremony

19 Aug

OK, enough of me, back to the reason why I’m here in Africa; The bike work shop. Last Friday we had the grand opening. There were governors, chief of police, Michael LInke the BEN, Namibia founder and plenty of other important community people, including the Honourable Mr Happy. There were TV camera’s from the Namibian Broadcasting channel and journalists from the local newspaper. Like any ceremony there were lots of speeches, photos, and smiles and a grand feast afterwards (no, there was no sausage sizzle).

Here are a few photos and captions documenting the day:

The temporary bike shop sign for opening day. You can see from the photo that it says MEN BICYCLE SHOP. This is unusual for BEN, Namibia who is a leader in Namibia with women empowerment. The reason for this is because the local partner organisation Catholic Aids Action has an initiative where they have involved males in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The 5 mechanic trainees were selected from the current 14 male home based care HIV volunteers who have been volunteering for the past 5 years.

The first half of the mornings program. Check out the speaker at 10.00am, “Honurable Mr Happy”. I think I have finally found my place! I’m looking into building a mud hut and buying a herd of cows.

Some of the other honourable people.

Then opening ceremony took place under the shade of a tree. The brick building in the background is where the small business training has been taking place.

The 14 HIV home based carers receiving their new bikes. The bikes are sold cheaply to the members of the community, but these bikes were donated to the hard working volunteers to help them in the fight against HIV/AIDS epidemic that ravages this region with a 33% infection rate.

This was a special day for me as I (and of course Mandy) worked so hard for this day. I remember the day back on the overcast Melbourne Sunday afternoon (that blue sky in the photo was only there for the last bit) with the Bicycles for Humanity volunteers packing this container. To see the container sitting there and the home based carers receiving their bikes was rather special. It was this moment I have been working towards from the first time I met with Bicycles for Humanity founder Matt McCullough. It was over 18 months ago that I met Matt in an inner city Melbourne café to tell him my idea. My idea of raising the funds to ship one a Bicycles for Humanity container to Africa and then go work with it.

I want to take this moment to thank everybody who made this happen, there are many of you, and without all your help this would not be the reality that it is. I hope this is a special moment for you all. THANK YOU.

Although we had the opening day there is still one last week of business planning before the 5 bike mechanics get let loose in the world of running their own bike shop business. Such planning that includes the workers drawing up their own employment contract, signing up for social security, planning the layout of the bike work shop, opening hours etc. The thing I love about this, and Michael Linke is a big advocate of, is that BEN, Namibia do not come in tell them how it is. No, it is the 5 mechanics who decide and come to an agreement on all these. BEN, Namibia just facilitate this, trains them and guides them. It is very much a project run by the locals, for locals.


Photos from week two of the bike workshop.

26 Jul

Week two has seen the five trainees working on the bikes after their theory in week one. They can now give a competent full service to a bike. I’m rather impressed in how fast they have clicked onto everything, it really is rather incredible.

Week three and four of the training will be spent fixing up the 356 bikes in the container, well not all of them but as many as we can get done before opening the bike work shop at the start of week 6. The interest from the community has been insane with people constantly asking when they can buy bikes. The community the container is located in is called butterfly (the neighbouring community is called ‘cowboy’) which is about 4km out of Katima. As Katima is on the border with Zambia, apparently a lot of people will be coming over to get bikes as well. I would say that the 356 bikes won’t last too long before they need restocking.

Here are some photos from week two:

The container is located in the grounds of the local butterfly church. The container is hooked up with the Catholic Aids Action (CAA). The five bike mechanic trainees are CAA volunteers who are helping in the fight against AIDS which is pretty hectic here in the Caprivi region, 40% of people have HIV.

The streets of Butterfly. Yep you can see why we were only wanting mountain bikes for the container.

Paulina the trainer with 3 of the trainees (one of the trainees has HIV and hasn’t been too well of late)

Mandy cooking the local food (pap) for lunch. The emphasis is on filing.

The kitchen. It’s a like cooking at the beach.

Mr Happy (this is what they call me) passing on a little knowledge from the mistakes I have made.

This photo taken on Friday. A really enjoyable day. We all completed a full service on a bike. Was cool tinkering away, everyone having a laugh and taking the piss like any other work shop in the world.

Movem servicing the bottom bracket. Before the training Movem didn’t know anything about bikes, now he can fully service a bike. Pretty cool.

Moses, the enthusiastic young man who will be the bike shop manager. All successful work shops require a man with the motivation, energy and passion to make it a success. I’m happy to say that Moses fits the bill.

First week of our bike work shop.

22 Jul

Hey folks,

Firstly internet is scarce here in Katima and not to mention very slow, but I will try to keep you all updated.

All is going well with the project, the first week is complete. The 5 local guys that are being trained as mechanics are a good laugh, and it has been good working with Paulina the BEN, Namibia trainer, we are both learning things.

It’s pretty cool seeing the container that we packed back in Melbourne, and it is quite funny seeing all the bikes with the local Melbourne bike shop stickers on them. There will be 3 more weeks of training/fixing the bikes up. Then Michael the founder of BEN, Namibia will be up in Katima to put the guys through the 2 week small business training. The work shop will be up and running in the second week of the small business training.

Already there has been a lot of interest from the local community as to when they can start buying bikes. There is certainly a need for bikes here. Things now seem normal here and we have slipped into the African way of life where there isn’t a strong push to get things done quickly. You just embrace it. It makes you realise how easy we have it. For example we wanted to drill the truing stand into the work bench. But after two days they couldn’t track down a drill so a chisel (actually it was a ring spanner that had been grinded down) and hammer were used to make the holes. I’ve seen many examples of African ingenuity here.

OK, best be off as have to go and buy a mattress as we have finally got out of our tent and are renting a room woop woop. Ciao. Here are some more photos from the first week.

Doing a stock take of the bikes.

Melbourne what up!

There’s a kindergarten in the compound where our sea container is. Always heaps of smiling kids running around.

Class time.

The best class room in the world.

Bikes for Africa Trailer

27 May

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I present to you the trailer for the upcoming Bikes for Africa Documentary.

Another impressive masterpiece from Mr Richard Sidey!

Exciting times indeed, Sich I have just got back from an overnight bike trip where he talked me through the finer (I should say the simpler) points of filming and what I need to do to capture the required footage whilst in Africa. I’m rather excited about it.

For more information on the doco go to the website www.bikesforafrica.net, spread the word, get involved.

Container location and route planning

9 May

Howdy folks,

With the $5000 donation to BEN, Namibia, it meant that the project we will be working with has enough money to get off the ground. And so the location of the container has now been confirmed as the town of Katima Mulilo, right in the heart of Southern Africa.

Katmia Mulilo the capital town of the Caprivi Strip, a little strip of land adjoining the North Eastern corner of Namibia that is bordered by Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Considering Namibia is one of the driest countries in the world, the Caprivi strip is a little oasis, dense in lush greenery with Katima Mulilo nestled on the banks of the Zambezi with crocs and hippos, woohoo. If you had thoughts of the Katima being a little village, think again, it’s a border town of 25,000.

The bike work shop will be working alongside a male engagement project that aims to involve more men in HIV/AIDS home based care work. We’re super excited to finally have a destination for the container and this helps a lot with our route planning.

Depending on when the container is supposed to arrive, our basic route will be heading north from Capetown, up through Namibia stopping off in Windhoek, the head quarters of BEN, Namibia.Then dependant on the containers arrival time (we will be on African time – give or take a month) we will either straight line it to Katima Mulilo (point B on the map), or if we have time maybe go through Botswana and Zimbabwe. Then after working with the container for a couple of months in Katima, we will cycle through Zambia to Lilongwe, Malawi (point C) where we will fly out having completed over 5000kms.

Round again rings

4 May

Howdy folks,

I’m pretty darn excited to present to you “round again rings“. These little rippers are the creative brain child of Nicola Macklin of Nicola Macklin Design. Like so many people that have jumped onboard and helped the Final Continent Expedition (FCE) get to where it is now, Nicola’s contribution are her round again rings. She will be selling them on behalf of the FCE with all proceeds going direct to Bicycles for Humanities (We are getting close to the $10,000 mark).

But these are more than just rings; these are rings with a message. The rings are made from plastic that Nicola picked out of a plastic factory’s rubbish bin, plastic that was destined for landfill. Nicola’s hope is that when people wear the rings it will remind them to reduce their waste. She also wants to bring awareness to the Pacific garbage vortex, the accumulation of plastic in the Pacific where all the ocean’s currents meet, an accumulation of plastic that is twice the size of continental America. That’s a lot of plastic that isn’t very fantastic!

Please go and visit Nicola’s impressive web site that she has put a lot of time and effort into. It explains how she made the rings, the inspiration about it, tonnes of information on the garbage vortex and the FCE and how you can get your little mitts onto a pair of these little buggers before Golom does.

It really is quite humbling browsing through Nicola’s website and seeing how much work she has poured into it so she can help out the FCE and Bicycles for Humanity. Please spread the word, therefore helping raise money for our Africa bound sea container and helping Nicola bring awareness to this plastic monster we are creating in the Pacific Ocean, here is the link to her website:



$5000 donation

23 Apr

Howdy folks,

Great news, Coca Cola USA has donated $5000! Yip, that’s $5000 that will be donated directly to BEN, Nambia. And that’s great news as it means BEN, Namibia will now have enough money to give our project the green light.

A big thank you to everyone who has donated. $9451.95 out of the $12,000 target has been raised so far for Bicycles For Humanity (our Melbourne based charity), this money going towards getting the sea container full of old bikes from Melbourne to Africa. And Coca Cola’s $5000 has been donated to BEN, Namibia (the charity on the ground in Africa)  to help with the implementation of the container.

If you would like to donate and help us reach the $12,000 target, then head to my fundraising site.

In a coming post I will fill you in on our container destination and therefore the place where I will be celebrating my 30th birthday and the culmination of my goal on the 11/11/11.

Also as I mentioned previously we will be holding our BEERS, BIKES and BANDS fundraising gig in Melbourne on the 29th of May at the Workers Club on Brunswick st.  We are looking for donation of items for our Silent Auction from companies that our passionate about our cause.

Big shout out to our event sponsor Little Creatures Brewery. If your company is interested in offering something for our silent auction please contact us at beerbikesandbands@gmail.com.

Once again, a big thank you to everyone who has donated and everyone that is helping make this happen.