Hackney Volunteer Police Cadets Bikes2Gambia project aims to send bikes from police stations for which an owner cannot be traced to The Gambia, to be used by young people who need to travel large distances to get to school or college and who would otherwise struggle to make the journey on a daily basis.
The Gambia is not only one of Africa's smallest nations, it is also one of the poorest. 29% of the population is chronically undernourished and for many, access to regular meals and drinking water often proves difficult, with around 60% classified as living in poverty. Poor children in Gambia are less likely to attend school on a regular basis, receive fewer years of education and are more likely to suffer from malnutrition and infectious diseases.
Many of these children never get to experience true childhood, especially those who grow up in single-parent households. Only 67% of school-aged children in Gambia are enrolled in primary school. Around 25%of Gambian young people engage in child labour activities because of the economic situation of their families.
Our project started in 2012, when the cadets raised enough money by bag packing in supermarkets and by completing a sponsored bike ride to send a container filled with 300 bikes over to the Gambia. With the help of the Al Fayed charity 5 cadets went to the Gambia in early 2013 to set up a bike hire program in a school. They also renovated an abandoned building and turned it into a cycle workshop for use by the community to maintain the bikes.
In 2013 the cadets set up a cycle maintenance project, funded by the London Cycling Campaign during which they learnt to service and maintain bikes and worked towards a recognised qualification. The bikes they fix whilst learning are donated to various good causes in Hackney .
They continued to fund raise and sent more bikes, and this time in conjunction with the Duke of Edinburgh Award, in early 2014, eight cadets visited The Gambia where they set up a cycle hire scheme at a college for vocational training. They were able to use their own maintenance knowledge to teach some of the students how to look after their bikes, making it a truly sustainable project. They also built a communal bike maintenance stand so that the students would have access to bike maintenance tools whenever needed.
In January 2015 we plan to return with 12 cadets and another 300 bikes to set up a project in a junior school. Whilst there the cadets will visit both of the locations of the earlier projects, complete a qualification in Environmental Studies, and complete sections of their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Not only is the project great for the young people of The Gambia, it is also incredibly beneficial for the cadets who go, many of whom are themselves from disadvantaged backgrounds. They will see a completely different culture and way of life from their own, and get to experience working with people in Africa. This opportunity is one that most would never get to experience at any other time and one that will shape their attitudes and perceptions for the rest of their lives, making them into better and more well rounded individuals.
Feedback from cadets who have previously visited has been overwhelmingly positive, with many saying it has been a genuinely life changing experience and one that they will always remember.
Please donate and help us to return to The Gambia and change the lives of young people. Thank you.