Rotary Ireland has expanded its commitment to collecting, refurbishing and delivering unwanted bikes to school children in Africa giving them the chance of a better life.
The School Bikes Africa project now includes bicycles to benefit younger students from the age of four.
This major project is now into its sixth year and has to date provided around 3,000 young people in The Gambia with the ability to get to school.
Monica Robertson, District Governor for Rotary Ireland is excited to be driving the project forward.
She said: “Our School Bikes Africa project is one which we are incredibly proud of.
“Not only are we helping thousands of students get an education, we are also supporting the Irish Prison Service in the rehabilitation of prisoners and helping to eliminate the need for the disposal of bikes into landfills sites.
“Until now, we have only provided older children in secondary education with bikes, but we are now delighted to open this up to younger children.
“Children in Africa, especially those in rural areas, often have a very long way to travel to get to school, perhaps even walking up to 20km in a day.
“Having a bike will allow a child to get a better education, meaning they can better provide for their families and lead a more fulfilled life.
“We believe that the long-term effects of this project will have a huge and positive impact on the children and their families, but we have a long way to go and we can’t do this without the public’s help.”
Partnering with Loughan House Open Centre, an open low security prison in County Cavan, Rotary Ireland is also helping to make a difference locally by playing an important role in the rehabilitation of prisoners who are proud to give something back to society.
Cian is one of the prisoners involved in the project.
He said he gets a thrill by being involved in a project which helps others.
He said: “I love working on the School Bikes Africa project.
“We are a real team and work together like a close family. It gives us a purpose, as five days a week we get to work from 8am to 4pm and we have even gained City & Guilds qualifications.
“It’s nice knowing that the work we do here puts a big smile on the face of a kid in Africa and that we are doing something really good for someone else.”
Loughan House Open Centre Assistant Governor, Jimmy Keely, says the project has given the prisoners a real sense of community and something to be proud of as they help to make a positive impact on the lives of the young people in Africa.
It’s nice knowing that the work we do here puts a big smile on the face of a kid in Africa and that we are doing something really good for someone else.”
He explained: “At Loughan House we aim to offer a number of activities that will help to rehabilitate our prisoners and provide them with skills that will be useful when they are reintroduced to society.
“The project provides them with the expertise to become bicycle engineers and to gain a City & Guilds qualification, which we are confident many can use to make a better life upon their release.
“They work hard and with passion and this project gives them a real sense of pride, to be involved in something which is helping others is an important part of their lives.
“We are very grateful for the support from Rotary that these prisoners are given this opportunity.”
Rotary Ireland are looking for decent sturdy bikes with a wheel span no smaller than 12 inches.
Ideally, the tyres will be thick to deal with the terrain in Africa.
Donations are also welcome as each bike requires £15 / €15 to cover the cost of refurbishment and transport to Africa.
Rotary Ireland District Governor, Monica Robertson, added: “Please take a look in your garage and if you have a bike to donate contact your local Rotary club who can arrange collection, refurbishment and delivery of your unwanted bikes to Africa.”
To donate, contact your local Rotary club or visit www.rotary.ie for further information.