SUMMARY: Cycle for Health is a pedal powered catalyst that when placed into a failing rural East African transport system mobilizes medical resources, personnel and patients. The initiative capitalizes on thousands and thousands of bicycles left unused in the garages, apartment buildings and streets of North America by recycling them to rural African communities to save lives. The initiative is an immediate need for rural communities with ample medicine and skilled professionals not being delivered or accessed because of poor roads and the limited use of motorized vehicles. When advanced care is many miles away, timely diagnosis, treatment and drug delivery is critical, especially true in the case of pregnant women and HIV/AIDS, Malaria and TB patients. In the rural setting, mild delays in initial care dominos small, treatable problems into serious ailments, resulting in a long, costly journey for advanced care at city hospitals.
To treat this rural health care problem at its root cause, Cycle for Health collects idle bicycles in North America, packages them with spare parts and tools, and ships them in purchased 40 ft. containers to community based organizations (CBOs) in rural East Africa. The fully stocked, containerized bicycle workshop becomes instant storage and workshop space upon arrival. The non-governmental organization (NGO) First African Bicycle Information Organization (FABIO), trains recipient CBO staff to repair, refurbish and remodel recycled bicycles into ambulances, goods carriers and off road transporters. The bicycle designs are marketed to hospitals, health care organizations, NGOs, and women development groups as a resource to mobilize their resources and improve their services.
Cycle for Health is a breakthrough in its comprehensive package of materials and trainings. Where current aid programs see bicycles as a donation dropped into a needy community, Cycle for Health envisions recycled bicycles as a capital to start sustainable small scale bicycle enterprises which improve mobility of medical resources, create jobs, and enhance quality of life.
PROBLEM SPACE: Cycle for Health organizers conducted a 2007 baseline needs assessment for bicycle use and health care delivery systems in Uganda. Community buy-in and project planning is complete for a pilot workshop in the rural Kigezi District of southwest Uganda. Technical trainings are being facilitated by FABIO and implementation is being managed by the CBO Kigezi Community Project (KCP). The two organizations have an MoU with Two Wheeled Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) which is coordinating recycled bicycle shipments, fundraising, and conducting monitoring and evaluation.
The Kigezi bicycle shipment departs mid-November from a collection point in Calgary for the Red Cross compound in the village of Kabale, located in the heart of the Kigezi region. During the two month travel period of the oversea shipment, KCP will establish a Cycle for Health office and schedule trainings with FABIO. The containerized bicycle workshop will be established in Kabale early 2009.
The Cycle for Health three year implementation plan rolls out satellite bicycle workshops from the central “hub” in Kabale. The satellite sites double as bicycle repair points and stops on a KCP mobile health clinic route. With empirical evidence of a Kigezi model, Cycle for Health scales out to other Ugandan and East African communities.
SOLUTION: Cycle for Health operates within the ‘global village ideal’ and emphasizes treating the root cause of social problems. It presents a bold, visionary initiative backed by a solid plan and administered by a capable team of globally conscious, grassroots experienced, technically savvy organizations. It is a comprehensive package, integrating health care delivery needs with an appropriate transportation technology. The program leverages existing medical resources and empowers existing health providers rather than re-inventing the wheel.
Cycle for Health is ecologically responsible, promoting pedal power as a carbon-free transportation choice. The initiative builds on bicycle recycling programs involving North American groups and recipients in Ghana and Namibia. The impact of bicycles can be measured quantitatively and qualitatively in studying health delivery in the Kigezi region. The bicycle is an accepted and valued form of transport in rural areas, and so the concept can be adapted to a broad range of conditions.