Award-winning tour operator Austin-Lehman Adventures (ALA – http://www.austinlehman.com/), the active travel company setting adventure travel standards in The Americas, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean, announces that $200 on each Africa safari booking through its company in 2013 will benefit Wheels of Change, a non-profit created by owner Dan Austin in 2011, that was recently granted 501c3 status.
Wheels of Change through the donation of new and used bikes assists rural villagers of Africa gain access to much needed mobility. Bicycles are collected in Billings, MT, and other chapters in North America. The most recent shipping container of bikes is scheduled to ship from Billings to Namibia in March, reported Austin.
http://www.wocinternational.org/. This is the third such shipment of bikes and parts to Africa in the past three years.
A representative of the Wuparo Conservancy in Namibia while visiting in Montana in September 2012 on a tourism exchange hosted by Austin-Lehman Adventures gave his tribal blessing to the shipping container of some 350 donated bikes, parts and tools that will soon travel from Billings to his homeland. An award-winning safari camp in Namibia, Nkasa Lupala Tented Lodge http://nkasalupalalodge.com/, expects to establish a village bike tour program using some of the donated bikes. The tour will augment ALA’s safari programming on the wetland paradise known as Mamili or Nkasa Lupala National Park created by the many channels of the Kwando-Linyanti river system. The lodge and the Wuparo Conservancy are part of the successful and award-winning Namibian conservancy program that won the 2011 Hospitality Association of Namibia Conservancy Tourism Award.
In Namibia, Wheels of Change partners with Michael Linke of the Bicycle Empowerment Network Namibia who identifies areas of need and uses the donated bikes and converts the shipping container they come in into a Bicycle Empowerment Center creating jobs and economic development within the community.
Austin points out that numerous studies have demonstrated that bicycles are an appropriate technology for travelling short distances in developing countries, with the lowest operating costs of all available modes in sub-Saharan Africa. A bicycle carries up to five times the weight and can travel four times as fast as a person walking, using much less energy.
As an example, bicycle-related activities can:
- Improve access to income generation opportunities.
- Provide sustainable transportation for low-income earners.
- Increase access to government services, including health care and education.
- Mobilize home-based care volunteers to visit more people living with HIV.
- Provide sporting opportunities for young athletes.
The Bicycle Empowerment Network http://www.benbikes.org.za/namibia/ has grown since 2006 to more than 28 shops where Namibians can buy or rent affordable bikes and receive repairs. Bicycle Empowerment Centers provide refurbished bicycles free of charge to, among others, healthcare outreach volunteers and school children. Income from bike-related activities goes to assisting a sustainable business model while creating local jobs. Profits are reinvested in other community projects such as growing food for AIDS orphans, making micro loans to foster small enterprises, purchasing school uniforms, and paying school fees for disadvantaged children.
For more information on the location of Bicycle Empowerment Centers in Namibia see: http://goo.gl/VFmJv
In 2012, the Bicycle Empowerment Network Namibia assisted in part by Wheels of Change, reached a significant milestone – the 25,000th bicycle donated to Africa. This was made possible through public and private donations and financial support. Austin and Linke aim to expand their network of Bicycle Empowerment Centers in Namibia and neighboring African counties over the coming decade.
Donations can be made on line via PayPal: http://www.wocinternational.org/donate/
Image courtesy Widness & Wiggins PR