Up­cy­cled ex-postie bikes are de­liv­er­ing a bet­ter life in Africa

The Observer Magazine - - Wheels -

There are so many up­sides to buy­ing an Ele­phant bike that it’s not easy to know where to be­gin. The story started a few years ago when a small Stafford­shire-based char­ity, the Krize­vac Project, got its hands on a fleet of old Royal Mail postal bikes. The vir­tu­ally in­de­struc­tible Pash­ley frames were des­tined for the scrap heap, but were given a new lease of life in Africa. The old bikes were stripped down and fully ser­viced with the help of young of­fend­ers in a lo­cal prison on who were work­ing to­wards pass­ing their cy­cle ycle main­te­nance cer­tifi­cates. The bikes were re then shipped to Malawi where game war­dens ns used them to ride around the perime­ter fence ce of a black rhino sanc­tu­ary. The war­dens ns were de­lighted but the lo­cal ele­phants were less than im­pressed. They took an im­me­di­ate ob­jec­tion to the orig­i­nal “Royal red” Post Of­fice paint job and of­ten charged at the war­dens. The bikes were re­turned to the work­shop where they were re­sprayed a more “bush friendly” shade of green.

When you buy an Ele­phant bike, the char­ity uses that money to do­nate a se­cond bike to its so­cial en­ter­prise, which is also in Malawi. Own­ing a bike there means se­cur­ing work, gen­er­at­ing an in­come and get­ting an in­valu­able ed­u­ca­tion. It’s the old “buy one, get one free” of­fer, but with an eth­i­cal twist.

In the past three years, the Krize­vac Project has sent 17,446 bikes to Africa. The bikes are sent over in ship­ping con­tain­ers and ev­ery inch of space is filled with do­nated books, school sup­plies, tools and sew­ing ma­chines.

So far 98 fully loaded con­tain­ers have made their way across the sea. From a to­tal stock of more than 20,000 postal bikes there are now only about 2,500 Ele­phant bikes left. When they’re gone, they’re gone. So the char­ity has spent the past year con­sid­er­ing what to do next.

They’ve de­cided to com­bine their twin pas­sions of re­cy­cling and trans­form­ing lives and come up with Cy­cle of Good. They’ve trained lo­cal peo­ple to make qual­ity hand­crafted goods in Malawi us­ing tra­di­tion­ally printed cloth and re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als, like your old bi­cy­cle in­ner tubes. The in­ner tubes are con­verted into ev­ery­thing from wal­lets and pen­cil cases to back­packs, shop­pers and lap­top c cases. The plan is that bike shops and cy­cle clubs in the UK and else­where will col­lect old tubes and do­nate them, ready to be up­cy­cled. We can help by buy­ing these thes prod­ucts from the web­site. All pro­ceeds from the sale sal of Cy­cle of Good prod­ucts go on to fund other en­terp en­ter­prise de­vel­op­ments in Malawi and, per­haps most cru­cia cru­cially, the run­ning of a chil­dren’s cen­tre which is sup­port­ing thou­sands of kids to give them a bet­ter start in life.

In the end­less de­bate over whether it’s bett bet­ter to give or to re­ceive, it seems we have

ac a clear win­ner – it’s best to do both! ■

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