Words by: Andrew Griffin
Trek Bicycle has partnered with World Bicycle Relief and a USAID-funded, World Vision-led coalition of relief organizations to address the HIV/AIDS crisis in Zambia.
With an overall goal of providing 23,000 bicycles to community-based healthcare workers, disease prevention educators, and school children and their families, World Bicycle Relief’s Project Zambia is working to ensure that healthcare and education reach those directly affected by HIV/AIDS.
Project Zambia also strives to train and equip more than 400 bicycle mechanics in the field as well as provide micro-finance loans to those in need. It is estimated that the program will positively affect more than 500,000 adults, orphans and children.
In October and November of 2008, Elaine Burke, philanthropist and mother of Trek Bicycle President John Burke, traveled throughout Zambia with World Bicycle Relief founder F. K. Day and a team of relief-worker volunteers: “Our goal was to identify and then distribute bicycles to those who could benefit most from them," said Burke. “We visited schools, healthcare workers, and businesses across the country to explain the program and identify those who could really use a bike."
As tools of simple, sustainable mobility, bicycles allow healthcare workers, educators, school children and entrepreneurs to travel greater distances more quickly, all with less fatigue and while carrying significantly more supplies.
In addition to visiting communities, the group of volunteers also explored World Bicycle Relief’s mechanic education program, which has undertaken the task of training 400 Zambians to service bicycles and run profitable repair businesses. While the Trek and SRAM-engineered bicycles are designed to withstand the diverse Zambian topography and heavy use, repairs inevitably become necessary and Zambian bicycle mechanics remain in short supply.
“[Zambians] really use their bikes, and eventually they break down," remarked Burke. “A week-long training program teaches mechanics how to repair bikes and how to run a bike repair business. Teaching them how to run a profitable business in addition to bicycle repair helps make the program even more sustainable."
Zambia is a nation roughly the size of Texas, with a population of 11.5 million people. The World Health Organization estimates life expectancy in Zambia at less than 40 years and that over 1 million Zambians are living with HIV/AIDS. More than half the population is less than 16 years old, and one in five children have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. Remote villages, coupled with a lack of transportation, isolate patients from the growing availability of healthcare and education.
“These people have so little, and yet they are so warm and welcoming," recalled Burke. “I was able to see the way Project Zambia is completely changing lives. Recipients are able to have businesses for themselves, they’re able to get education, and most importantly, these 23,000 bikes help healthcare workers get to HIV/AIDS patients."
World Bicycle Relief was founded in 2005 by bicycle component manufacturer SRAM Corporation and Trek Bicycle in response to the December 2004 tsunami that swept the Indian Ocean. In addition to financial contributions, Trek Bicycle engineers helped to design the extra-sturdy bicycles that would serve as sustainable transportation of people and supplies. Project Tsunami successfully provided 24,000 locally-manufactured bicycles to carefully selected needy individuals. Project Zambia is a continuation of Trek and World Bicycle Relief’s commitment to empower individuals through sustainable transportation.
For more information on World Bicycle Relief, Project Zambia, or to find out how you can contribute, please visit worldbicyclerelief.org.