The Bicycling Empowerment Network Namibia (BEN Namibia), founded by Australian Michael Linke in 2005, is providing more and more bicycles to the Southern African country of Namibia, thereby improving the lives of rural people with affordable and sustainable transportation.
The donation of bicycles provides income-generating activities for community-based organisations as well as assisting rural people in need of emergency transportation. To date, 80 bicycle ambulances and nine bicycle workshops have been financed by BEN Namibia, which has partnered with 51 community-based organisations mainly focused on home-based care services for people living with HIV/AIDS, orphans and vulnerable children. With the national HIV/AIDS infection rate remaining around 20 percent, and maternal mortality rates doubling in Namibia in recent years, the need for locally-managed medical transport is more pressing than ever.
In 2008, BEN Namibia celebrated its 7,000th distributed bicycle. The organisation hopes to celebrate its 10,000th bicycle next year - as it plans to receive more than 3,500 bicycles from its donor partners from around the world. In 2009, this will include a shipment of bicycles from Bicycles for Humanity Melbourne.
With support from an Australian organisation, Global Development Group, BEN Namibia has announced that it now has tax deductible status for Australians wishing to donate to this project. Second hand bicycles are also collected by BEN Namibia partner Bicycles for Humanity in Canada, Australia, the US and UK and delivered in the containers that they are shipped in, which become the storage and workshop space.
More information can be found on benbikes.org.za/namibia.
(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer.)