A big thank-you from BEN Namibia

BEN Bikes preview

From: Michael Linke

Dear friends of BEN Namibia,

From our humble beginnings in 2005, BEN Namibia has grown to become one of Africa’s leading ‘bicycles for development’ organisations, touching tens of thousands of people’s lives with better access to education, healthcare and employment.

Your support has been key to our success, and I’m writing to thank you for your efforts in supplying BEN Namibia with bicycles over the years, and for believing in the programme we’ve built together. Thank you for the time you’ve given to mobilise your friends, family and community to collect and ship bicycles to further our work. Each bike makes a difference, and has the potential to change someone’s life for the better.

To show the scale of your collective effort, I’ve created a bubble chart with the numbers of bicycles shipped to Namibia by each partner, which is attached here. Please review your total for accuracy and let me know of any errors so that I can review the numbers, my apologies in advance if I’ve underestimated your total! I will update the numbers and re-post on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/BEN-Namibia/183875744102?ref=hl .

We continue to receive inspiring stories from each of our Bicycle Empowerment Centres, and try to share these on our Facebook page. We have also helped many of the BECs to gain email access, and encourage you to make direct contact: please let me know if you’d like any of the BECs’ contact details, there are more coming on line with internet access this year.

2012 was a good year in terms of bicycle supply. In our last financial year, which ended in February, we imported 7,130 bicycles (including 900 to Zambia from Fahrrader fur Afrika, not included on the chart). These 17 containers represented our biggest year yet in terms of bicycle imports.

We surveyed each BEC at the beginning of the year to understand their perceptions of our performance, and most felt that the numbers of bikes available had improved compared with 2011. We did however find that many had issues about the appropriateness of some of the bikes they received, and requested that we send ONLY 26 INCH MOUNTAIN BIKES in working order as the main load, topped up with some 24 inch mountain bikes, BMX and children’s bikes.

Adult bicycles with narrow tyres are a big problem for Namibia’s sandy, thorny terrain, and for the poor rural villager who buys one, they are a poor investment as the tyres are not available locally, and after their tyres wear out they’re basically left with scrap. So, a clear message from our partners to those of you planning further shipments: please don’t ship ANY bicycles with narrow tyres. Also, if bicycles are too rusted or damaged to move, they may be better off sent for recycling. If you’re in doubt about appropriate bicycles, please send me an email.

On a personal note, although Clarisse, myself and our children are now based in Rio de Janeiro and Clarisse works here, I am in daily contact with our Namibian partners through SMS, Skype and email, and continue to travel back to Namibia regularly. I’m also involved with helping adapt the programme to other African countries, and am currently developing projects in Kenya, Zambia, Botswana and Madagascar. So despite the distance, my plans for the coming years are very much connected with Africa, and BEN Namibia will continue to coordinate bicycle resupply to existing BECs and the establishment of new projects.

We would love to continue working with you in 2013, and if you have plans to ship any bikes this year, please get in touch. Any information you can share about your schedule will help greatly with planning. If you’re no longer shipping bicycles, or committed to supporting other projects, I wish you the best of luck, and would be glad to hear of your successes and challenges.

Best wishes,
Michael Linke

Michael Linke
Director, Bicycling Empowerment Network Namibia

PO Box 23150, Windhoek, Namibia
Fax: 08 864 5084
email: michael@benbikes.org.za
web: www.benbikes.org.za/namibia
Skype: ben.namibia
Facebook: http://on.fb.me/fYc1HP