Bicycles donated from Huron-Perth are key to a better life in Namibia

Photo courtesy of Mark Nonkes.

Bullet News BLYTH – Used bicycles discarded by people in Huron and Perth are key to improving the quality of life for people who live in Namibia, a country in southern Africa that borders the Atlantic Ocean.

“We know that a bicycle can be maintained anywhere in the world with minimal tools and spare parts,” said Mark Nonkes, of Bicycles for Humanity Huron Perth, which is asking folks to check the basement, garage and barn for old bikes to donate by Sept. 29.

“A bike allows someone to travel twice as far, twice as fast and carry four times the load. In the countries in which we work, a bike can mean access to education, health care, fresh water, economic opportunity and community,” said Nonkes, in an email to Bullet News Huron.

According to a 2008 study done by the United Nations Development Program, more than one in four households in Namibia live in poverty. Furthermore, the poorest 10 per cent of households command just one per cent of the country’s total income whereas the wealthiest 10 per cent control more than half.

Nonkes lived in Namibia from 2007 to 2010. During that time, he coached a cycling team of teenage boys, training on donated bikes that were shipped to Namibia from the West. In 2008, his parents visited and tremarked there were many unused bikes in Huron County. They decided to organize a bicycle drive when they returned to Huron County.

Bicycles for Humanity Huron was born in the fall of 2008, linking with community groups, churches and individuals to collect 400 bikes and enough money to ship the bikes to Namibia. BHH has a volunteer-based board and works closely with the Blyth United Church and Blyth Christian Reformed Church.

A year later, a group of home-based care volunteers, who visit people with HIV in their homes, asked to receive bikes to distribute to their rural community in Namibia. Five people were trained to fix the bikes as they arrived. One worker, a man who couldn’t find a job for 20 years because he was HIV positive, said he was once again able to contribute and feel a tremendous sense of worth. Click here to read Lavinia Friedrich‘s letter.

A year later, in 2010, the program was expanded to include Perth County. Due to generous people in the community, 800 bikes were collected. They were sent to Namibia again, where they were distributed mostly to schoolchildren, who used the bikes to pedal to school.

“We know about the importance of mobility in developing countries. Imagine if you didn’t have a car. Where we work in Namibia, the distances are similar to those in Huron County. But there are fewer services, due to the country’s poverty,” Nonkes said.

“It’s a kilometre or so to get water. It’s 5 km or more to the nearest school. It’s 15 km or more to the nearest hospital. If you have to walk, a huge part of your day is lost. Imagine what else you could do with that time?” he said.

When Nonkes visited Namibia earlier this year, he met with a school principal who said his students who started riding to class after bikes were distributed to their community now attend school more regularly, are able to attend extra-curricular studies, arrive to school on time and focus better as they are not tired from a long walk.

He also met Albanus, a farmer whose 20 cattle went missing earlier this year. The farmer said when the grass is finished, the cattle go to town because there is water there and there is still grass, but if the municipality catches cattle, they will corral them and force farmers to pay a lot of money per cattle to get them released. As soon as he realized the cattle were missing, Albanus jumped on his bike, donated from the Huron-Perth bicycle drive in 2010, and pedaled to town. After two hours of searching, he saw his herd and drove them home.

BHHP donated 383 second-hand bikes to people in Namibia in 2009. That number has modestly risen to 424 in 2011. Nonkes said they are aiming to collect 400 bikes and some money in this fall drive.

They are looking for donations of:

  • Adult sized Mountain bikes, in working condition;
  • Hybrid bikes with wide tires in working condition;
  • Children’s Mountain bikes, in working condition;
  • Good quality spare parts, such as tubes and tires; and
  • Good quality tools

Bikes with flat tires are acceptable.

They do not accept road bikes, tricycles, tandems, bikes without wheels, bikes with major rust, major damage or child carriers.

People can drop off their bikes at:

Saturday Stratford Farmers’ Market, Stratford Fairgrounds
Rotary Complex,
353 McCarthy Rd,
 Stratford, Ont.,
from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; or

Blyth United Church,
442 Mill Street,
Blyth, Ont. from 9 a.m. to noon.

For more information visit the website, or, if you live in Huron County, contact
Gary Clark
in Blyth at
519-523-4224 and if you live in Perth County, contact
Lora Curtis
of Stratford at

Written by on September 11, 2012 in Blyth, North Huron - No comments

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