Creating Hope in Ada, Ghana

by Lomo Tanihu
Fall 2001 InGear

I am Lomo Tanihu, now 19. I left school ten years ago when my parents could no longer afford to send me. I cannot read or write. In spite of this setback, I decided then that even if I did not go to school, I would still be somebody. But instead of achieving through learning, I would do it through bike-riding.

Bikes are expensive in Ghana, and my parents were too poor to buy one. One member of my family, my Uncle Tetteh, did own a bike, which he used to get to work and to market. From early on, I dreamed of owning one. During my teenage years, I would wake up at 4am so that I could ride my uncle’s bike before he departed for work.

Then one day late last year, I heard on the radio that the NekoTech Center was having a bicycle race and ride for HIV/AIDS awareness. I knew little about NekoTech and little about HIV/AIDS, but a lot about bike racing. The best part was that for 2000 cedis (20 cents) every village kid who did not own a bike could ride for the day…and you could choose your own bike!

Princess Asie, the director of NekoTech, explained to us that Pedals for Progress and Johnson & Johnson helped to bring this chance to Ada. We were also told that the first prize for the race was one million cedis. ($150!) I had never ever held that kind of money before! Most people in the village earn 100,000 to 400,000 cedis per month ($15–$60).

I can never forget that day. The whole village came to life; over 1000 kids came to the center. Only the first 250, registering on a first come-first serve basis, could qualify; many were turned away.

I was there first, four hours before the opening of the center. I had the chance to choose the first bike. Over the years, I had learned how to repair bikes. I had taught myself everything I could about bikes. I chose a red and white Schwinn racer, and serviced it. When I signed up, I even received a PfP t-shirt. I took this as a good sign!

I had promised myself that I would win the first prize and buy this very bike! I could feel so much closer to my dream. We had two weeks to prepare. I woke up every morning at 3am to practice for speed and endurance. On January 26, 2001, the biggest day of my life arrived. I did not ride my uncle’s bike to NekoTech—rather, I walked—because I was determined to win the race and purchase and bring home my Schwinn. Perhaps you will not be surprised I won the race and one million cedis ($150), and immediately bought my Schwinn! I did not know whether to ride the Schwinn or to carry it. I have never experienced such joy in all my 19 years. I had now understood the meaning of having a dream come true!

Since that day, my life has changed in many ways. The local radio mentioned my accomplishment almost ten times. I was shown on national TV!! Best yet, I reconciled with my parents. My father asked me to move back into his house. I am treated like royalty now in my father’s house. I gave part of my winnings to my uncle, whose bike I had borrowed to become a champion.

NekoTech now employs me to repair bikes and to teach other young school dropouts bicycle repair. I was also elected President of the NekoTech Winners Club, a bike club with a mission to educate Ghanaian youth about HIV/AIDS.

The NekoTech “Save a Million Lives” program has brought hope to many in Ada. Beyond HIV/AIDS education and recreation, bikes are used to produce income. Farmers are taught how to carry produce by bike; women and mothers have been taught to ride for the first time. Children ride to school sometimes over six miles instead of walking. The program has given many families a chance to own a bike for the first time. We are all happy about the program and pray for more bikes to come to Ada. The program has also brought hope to me. I am now determined to learn how to read and write. I know that with NekoTech’s assistance, I can do it!

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