Spring 2005 InGear

The most remote places on Planet Earth are very often the poorest because it is so very difficult for products and materials to reach such distant locations. This remoteness usually causes bicycle container shipping costs to be quite exorbitant, and, for example, shipping bicycles to the very center of the African continent is two times more expensive than shipping the same bicycles to Central America. This is further complicated by the insistence of governments in these countries to tax heavily these goods. These high shipping costs and taxes have severely challenged attempts by Pedals for Progress to establish partnerships in Central African nations, but, despite these tremendous financial challenges, in late 2004 Pedals for Progress initiated a program with the Biikira Development Centre Project at the Biikira Health Center (BHC) in Masaka, Uganda.

This new partnership with the Biikira Development Center (BDC) in Masaka-South Buganda in Uganda began with a shipment of 436 bicycles, predominantly women’s bicycles. BDC Supports different development projects in the area all revolving around St Andrew’s Biikira Health Center (BHC). BHC provides primary health care services and health education through an extensive network of volunteer health workers, most of who are female. Uganda Electronics & Computer Industries Ltd Company funded the trans-Atlantic freight costs for this initial shipment, and it also funded the costs of trucking the bicycles from the port of Mombasa-Kenya to the BHC site about 1,000 miles inland.

Pedals for Progress has applied for a grant to fund this program during 2005. This grant is imperative because the cost of trucking the bicycles across Kenya to Uganda increases the total transportation cost per bicycle to more than $21, well beyond the $10 per bicycle transportation cost that allows a typical partnership to remain self-sustaining. Although this specific Biikira Project is urgently needed by the people of Masaka, its viability is extremely challenged due to these high transportation costs. Pedals for Progress has accepted this program fully acknowledging that its standard financing program will never be sufficient, but it is hopeful that long-term financial sponsorship will be received for both this Biikira Project and other programs in sub-Saharan Africa.

2005springUgandaKibiThe initial 400+ bicycles received by Biikira Development Center have already changed the lives of many Ugandans. Hopefully many more shipments will follow. Here is one story about a bicycle recipient – it illustrates the significant value of this entire project. Pictured here in front of the St. Andrew’s Biikira Health Center Administration Building is Mr. Kibi Francis Xavier, a Community Based Health Care Outreach Staff Member who works as a professional trainer for Community Health Worker trainees. Kibi works with the Franciscan Congregation in the Biikira Health Center in Rakai District in Masaka Diocese. He is routinely assigned to a wide variety of job responsibilities for the Health Center, and his newly purchased bicycle allows him to now perform these varying job tasks with much greater efficiency and effectiveness.

During a typical week, here’s a brief summary of Kibi’s many varied duties.

  1. Works as a Health Center Mobilizer for immunizations in two neighboring villages (Biikira Gayaaza L.C.1 and Biikira Bijja L.C.1).
  2. Gives personal hygiene, nutrition, and malaria health talks at the Health Center and in nearby villages every Monday and Friday.
  3. Conducts home visits to check on disabled individuals and discharged patients.
  4. Completes school inspections regarding health improvements such as checking school toilets, student linens, and the nature of hostels.
  5. Serves as a trained counselor for the VCI/PMTCI Government Program, even though the community hosts an HIV/AIDS Testing Center.
  6. Counsels attendants, voluntary donors, and other people on a variety of blood-related matters in addition to the local blood transfusion service that is offered.
  7. Assists the Health Center by attending local village council meetings as the Health Center delegate.
  8. Participates in the local HIV/AIDS Data Collection Program in Masaka Diocese.
  9. Partners with the Health Center to provide eye care and dental mobilization systems.
  10. Utilizes his home business management skills by assisting women’s groups, widows, youth, orphans, and guardians with their day-to-day income-generating projects.

Kibi is truly a remarkable man in a remarkable land. His bicycle is his lifeblood. Without it he could not possibly serve the Health Center and nearby villages with the care and compassion that is so vital to the everyday lives of countless people in the remote village of Masaka-Uganda. Despite the tremendous financial challenges, it is this very story and others that propels the desire for Pedals for Progress to continue its partnership with the Biikira Development Project and pray that long-term financial sponsorship will soon be received.

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