JP bike group sets up shop in Ghana

May 19, 2008
By

David Taber

Brookside—Bikes Not Bombs (BNB)—a JP-based non-profit that, among other things, has shipped over 30,000 bicycles overseas support alternative transportation in developing countries—is undertaking a new project this spring in partnership with a Ghanaian superstar.

The plan is for BNB work with the Emmanuel Yeboah Education Fund and Sports Academy for the Physically Challenged (EEFSA) to develop a bicycle workshop and training center in Koforidua, Ghana, said BNB International Development Programs Director Karl Kurz.

Over the next 8 months, the vocational program will train 12 Ghanaians with disabilities in bike mechanics, enabling them to take up businesses of their own repairing and selling bicycles.

“I’m very happy that this type of project is coming to my hometown,” EEFSA founder and director Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah said, when he met with volunteers May 7 at BNB’s Amory Street workshop for a late-night conversation about the project.

If they pull it off, the project will represent one more success for Yeboah and BNB in what have been two successful histories.

In 2001, Yeboah, a Ghanaian born without the use of his right leg, undertook a 380-mile one-legged bike ride across his home country to combat prejudice against people with disabilities.

In 2004, the California-based Challenged Athletics Foundation (CAF) named him Most Inspirational Athlete of the Year. Using $50,000 he received from Nike and CAF as part of the award, he founded EEFSA the same year.

CAF also gave Yeboah the bike for his 2001 trip and connected him with surgeons in California who were able to amputate his useless leg and fit him with a prosthesis

In 2006, thanks in large part to Yeboah’s advocacy work and the international attention it received, Ghana passed a landmark disability rights law.

BNB was founded in 1984. The model of providing material support for vocational training programs is one it has used with great success in the past, Kurz said.

“We worked with disabled people’s organizations in Nicaragua for 12 years between 1984 and 1992,” he said. “This is in the realm of what we have done before.”

BNB also previously sent 8,762 bicycles to Ghana in support of the Village Bicycle Project, another Ghanaian bicycle promotion program.

On April 26, it sent 414 bicycles and $4,000 worth of tools and parts to Koforidua to help start the new program.

And in a few weeks it will be sending bike mechanic and activist David Branigan to teach the course.

While BNB’s support for the new program is an outright contribution, the trainees will be taking on a $25,000 loan to cover the rest of the program costs, Kurz said.

Branigan, who has spent time in Ghana doing development work before, said he is excited to go back and about the work.

“Bicycles are the best form of development ever in terms of material good. They help people move—get to the market so they can buy and sell things, get to community meetings,” he said. “It cuts across all sectors of life and has a direct impact on the productivity of individuals.”

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