ROTARY Ireland has expanded its commitment to collecting, refurbishing and delivering unwanted bikes to school children in Africa giving them the chance of a better life.
The School Bikes Africa project now includes bicycles to benefit younger students from the age of four.
This major project is now into its sixth year and has to date provided around 3,000 young people in The Gambia with the ability to get to school.
Monica Robertson, District Governor for Rotary Ireland is excited to be driving the project forward. She said: “Our School Bikes Africa project is one which we are incredibly proud of.
“Not only are we helping thousands of students get an education, we are also supporting the Irish Prison Service in the rehabilitation of prisoners and helping to eliminate the need for the disposal of bikes into landfill sites.
“Until now, we have only provided older children in secondary education with bikes, but we are now delighted to open this up to younger children.
“Children in Africa, especially those in rural areas, often have a very long way to travel to get to school, perhaps even walking up to 20km in a day.
“Having a bike will allow a child to get a better education, meaning they can better provide for their families and lead a more fulfilled life.
“We believe that the long-term effects of this project will have a huge and positive impact on the children and their families, but we have a long way to go and we can’t do this without the public’s help.
”Partnering with Loughan House Open Centre, an open low security prison in County Cavan, Rotary Ireland is also helping to make a difference locally by playing an important role in the rehabilitation of prisoners who are proud to give something back to society.”
Cian is one of the prisoners involved in the project. He said he gets a thrill by being involved in a project which helps others.
He said: “I love working on the School Bikes Africa project. “We are a real team and work together like a close family. It gives us a purpose, as five days a week we get to work from 8am to 4pm and we have even gained City and Guilds qualifications.
“It’s nice knowing that the work we do here puts a big smile on the face of a kid in Africa and that we are doing something really good for someone else.”
Loughan House Open Centre Assistant Governor, Jimmy Keely, says the project has given the prisoners a real sense of community and something to be proud of as they help to make a positive impact on the lives of the young people in Africa.
Rotary Ireland is looking for decent sturdy bikes with a wheel span no smaller than 12 inches. Ideally, the tyres will be thick to deal with the terrain in Africa.
Reprinted from Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland Magazine, February/March 2019