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.