Life really is so simple. A bike, that's all it takes to make me happy. It used to be about simply riding a bike, now, it's about helping put bikes in the hands of people who so desperately need them. A bike is not a luxury for these Ugandans, it is a necessity. For 135 Ugandan Community Care Givers it means reaching their patients, most of them suffering the debilitating effects of HIV/AIDS, more often. For some of these caregivers they have to travel 20+ kilometers in a day to reach the most remote patients in their care. That is over 12 miles per day. These are volunteers. They simply do this for the love of their community and their fellow Ugandan.
I traveled to a small community, Kassanda, in the District of Mubende, Uganda this week to talk to 25 very happy recipients of the WBR Nyati Bicycle. The organization facilitating the distribution of these bikes is Wellshare International. The great thing about this distribution is that the recipients are purchasing these bikes through the organization with a no interest loan. It is the perfect example of a hand up, not a hand out. They are free to use these bikes in other money making opportunities such as hauling crops, water or as taxis. It is a win win for all participants. This is how aid should be used!
I spent about fifteen minutes talking about the bike and answering the group's questions. Afterward I wanted them all to ride the bike. Several of the women asked if they could have a men's bike instead of a ladies so that their husbands could use them as well. Some of the older women who did not ride themselves took part in the program and selected men's bikes so that the men taxiing them around their district would not feel funny riding a ladies bike. And then there was this feisty woman who simply said she only rode men's bikes and that she could handle it. This she proved by jumping on the bike and taking off down the hill. LOVE this woman!
During the presentation I had a very dynamic translator taking my fast talking English and converting it in amazing ease to Ugandan. Very few of the 25 recipients spoke English. After we did all the "test drives", I walked up to the translator to introduce myself. His name is Michael. He's probably in his late 20's, Ugandan, very soft spoken and has a unique sense about every word he uses. He was very deliberate in his word choice which made him one of the best translators I have worked with in Africa. He speaks Ugandan, English, French and a form of Arabic used in southern Sudan. I was so impressed I asked him what led him to this tiny village three hours outside Kampala. Everyone has a story in Africa, most of them unfathomably heart wrenching. Michael was no exception.
Michael had just graduated from University and was planning on going to Sudan to study languages, specifically Arabic. He was in a Land Rover traveling through Northeastern Uganda, a still very dangerous area. His vehicle was ambushed and he was the only survivor. He survived six bullet wounds to the chest. He is a miracle. That was six years ago and he's finally working his way back into his former life. I am daily humbled by individuals in Africa such as Michael. Their strength and perseverance is immortal.
Michael saw I had an iPhone and asked if I had music on it. I told him I did. He told me his computer had contracted a virus and he had lost all his music an American had given him. He wanted to know if I had any Hootie & the Blowfish. Seriously? Of all the music I would expect him to ask for, that was the furthest from my mind. Yes, I did have Hootie & the Blowfish. As I turned up the volume to Hold My Hand, Michael began to sing. He knew all the words. He knew the words to Time as well. I just stood next to him listening trying so hard not to get all verklempt.
Tonight when I was running I had put my iPhone on shuffle. Two songs in (out of 856 on my Iphone), Time began to play.
I simply smiled……….