MEET BEN: The Bicycle Empowerment Network
26336 Bicycles Distributed, 18 Bicycle Empowerment Centres Established, 91 Individuals Trained in Bicycle Mechanics….these numbers tell an incredible story of positive change in South Africa!
BEN’s mission is simple – to provide access to opportunities (be that school, work, studies or networking) through the use of a bicycle – giving hope and a step up to those who need it most, and creating a cycling culture in all walks of life.
They achieve their mission through a number of avenues including the donation of bikes, establishing of bicycle empowerment centres, mechanical and rider training.
BEN has formed strong relationships with a number of international donor agencies, including Re-cycle (UK) www.re-cycle.org , Bicycles for Humanity (Aus) www.bicycles-for-humanity.org , SOTS (Norway), Bikes for the World (USA) www.bikesfortheworld.org and receive containers of used bikes from these agencies which they then import, store and distribute to communities in South Africa. However they also receive bikes from local donors, including individuals and corporate benefactors – so if you have a spare bike do let them know!
Their holistic approach is evident through their Bicycle Empowerment Centres and Mechanic training, which both encourage job creation in these local communities. The Bicycle Empowerment Centres are run by local entrepreneurs who then assist to distribute and service bikes. Their bicycle courses range from one-day basic maintenance programmes, to comprehensive three-week long programmes covering most areas of bicycle repair.
The really inspiring and forward thinking part of the BEN approach is that it doesn’t just donate bikes, but also equip local communities and ensure that all their programmes & projects are supported by ongoing local & sustainable mechanical support.