Thank you to Ms. Magazine for publishing my story, “A Bicycle Built for Many!” about Chipego Bike shop in Nakatindi Village, Zambia on page 17 of the Winter 2019 issue.
Esther Kawewe had a dream: to go to school, build her family a house, and help her brother support the family. But her father wasn’t working, her mother sold vegetables in a roadside market stall, and there wasn’t enough money for school–so Esther stayed home with her three younger siblings and hoped that things might someday change in Nakatindi Village, Zambia.
When the Chipego Bike shop opened in September 2015, Esther was one of five women selected by her community to train for two months as a bicycle mechanic and business owner. It changed everything.
Bikes destined for the trash heap in the United States are instead sent to Africa, creating transformations in women’s lives through the repairing and sale of bikes and their parts.
Chipego Bike Shop (Chipego means “gift” in the local language) was started by Abercrombie and Kent Philanthropy (AKP), as the first of six bicycle enterprise projects now in existence. The bicycles from the shop not only provide living wages for women in the community, but they allow for students and workers to travel quickly and safely to school and work, and for health-care workers to see more patients, even in outlying areas. Some students travel seven miles to the nearest secondary school; this was a three hour daily round trip by foot, but by bicycle is only twenty minutes each direction.
What is the impact of nearly 9,000 bicycles sent to the different shops? Esther Kawewe says, “Working here has been life-changing, because firstly I am supporting my family. And I have built a big house, and I’ve taken myself to school.”
Not only have 25 full-time jobs for women (plus 18 part-time jobs) been created, but the perception of what is “appropriate” for women to do has evolved. David Mweemba, Senior Safari Guide at Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma notes that, “Seeing these women repairing bicycles at the shop is changing the mindset of men and women in the village.”
Esther adds that in her village, at first “They thought this job was only for men. Now us women, we can do it. I’m proud of being a bike mechanic!”
One of the other bike shop owners is Bridget Mayumbelo, whose schooling ended at seventh grade. But through the bike-shop success, she’s been able to continue sending her five children to school, as well as take in and support 2 orphans. “I am very happy in this project,” she smiles, “I think my family will now be comfortable.”
Sehenyi “Shex” Tlotlego, A&K Philanthropy Coordinator in Botswana, says said that in “Empowering women we know we are not just reaching out to one individual but to several
other people who depend on her for a livelihood. . . . education, health, food on the table, and a roof over their heads.”
Bicycles destined for the dump in the U.S. but rejuvenated in Africa are transforming lives with mobility, wages, schooling, and pride. — Lisa Niver
Learn more at akphilanthropy: “Every bike has the power to change lives.”
Changing Lives, One Bike at a Time video Aug 2018:
Thank you to Abercrombie and Kent USA for your help with my story and my first African safari in Tanzania and Kenya.
My safari adventures in Africa 2018:
Part 5: Do You Love The Animals of Africa?