CALM Africa’s initiative to ride youth out of poverty.
The mid morning tropical sun is out, but he is not bothered as he takes cover under the mango tree shade, seated on his motorcycle. As two people emerge from a corner carrying a travel bag, he gets off the motorcycle quickly and stands up. Picking up his helmet, he beeps the horn, signaling whether the pedestrians need mobile transport services. All this happens before his colleagues turn off their eyes from a football fixture paper they are crowded around. When one of the approaching pedestrians gives him a thumbs up reply, he quickly kick starts his motorcycle and gears towards them.
He will transport the passenger deep from Nangabo village to the main road at Kasangati trading centre. And for this he will earn one thousand five hundred shillings, roughly, just over half a dollar.
Life was never as enterprising as this for Alex. Living in a community where poverty levels are high, and majority of the residents survive on less than one dollar a day, he was earning no regular income. And with no formal education, hopes of getting a steady job were slim. He used to loiter around the villages, searching for casual jobs as a laborer at construction sites, garden clearing and other domestic tasks.
Then in 2009, CALM Africa conceived a community engaging initiative called ‘Ride to Prosperity’. Under the Ride to Prosperity campaign, CALM Africa envisioned empowering youth using the most common mode of transport in the area, bicycle.
“We conceived an idea, Ride to Prosperity, using ‘bodaboda’ bicycles as a flexible and quick maneuverable means of transporting people and their goods, get to school, exercise, but most importantly be able to earn a living”, James Ssekiwanuka, Director CALM Africa, explains the inception of Ride to Prosperity Initiative. “We chose bicycles because they provide a flexible means of transport, convenient, easy and cheap to maintain, and are eco-friendly.”
Through community engagement, CALM Africa identified a group of young people to benefit from this initiative.
“To Ride to Prosperity, we had to introduce the youth of Nangabo community to a quick and yet familiar means of income generating activity, the culture of saving, and the importance of keeping health and free from HIV/AIDS,” James further adds.
The identified youth were given this orientation training at CALM Africa’s offices. They were also introduced to safety riding, traffic signs, bicycle maintenance and repair. With the youth prepared, CALM Africa contacted and requested for assistance from its donors.
“Our foreign volunteers mobilized funds for CALM Africa to procure bicycles. The said funds enabled us to procure a batch of 25 bicycles which we distributed to the youth. First priority was given to youth engaged in community civic education, especially in child protection issues,” James explains.
CALM Africa signed an agreement with the recipients of these bicycles. “The recipients take the bicycles but pay back 50 percent of the cost in installments, over an agreed period of time,” reads the agreement. “That way, when a donor gives us 50 bicycles, he is already directly impacting on more than 75 youths,” illustrates an excited James.
Each bicycle costs about Uganda Shillings 270,000, and it costs Shillings 20,000 to deliver it to CALM Africa’s workshop. Making a total cost of Shillings 290,000, this converts into about British Pounds 68.
CALM Africa has so far given out over 89 bicycles. Of these, 40 bicycles have been distributed in Lwanda and Kasasi sub counties in Rakai district and the rest in Nangabo and Kiira sub counties in Wakiso district.
“Within the next 3 years, we plan to have over 1000 bicycles delivered to young people to ride out of poverty in the districts of Wakiso and Rakai,” the Director CALM Africa projects.
Some of the earlier recipients have already graduated from bicycles to motorcycles. “Five of our first recipients have now bought for themselves motorcycles,” James reveals the potential impact
Alex is one of them. With his motorcycle, he can now earn up to 8 dollars a day. In a country where around 20 percent of the population survives on less than a dollar per day, Alex’s life has been improved. During workshops to inculcate the culture of savings and goals of Ride to Prosperity, Alex and his team are called upon to provide peer education of progressive riders.
“For the bicycle riders, they too easily transport passengers, their goods and run errands at a fee, there by earning a living, that’s Riding to Prosperity while others are able to go to school easily to acquire education and on the way they can earn a living”, James concurs with Alex.
CALM Africa has now introduced annual riding competitions, with small trophies. This is to give the youth a chance to network. During such events, the youth and riders are challenged to form savings and credit cooperative organizations and support groups.
There are so many people in need of bicycles to improve their lives and those of their families and children, enhance child protection and monitoring mechanisms, and get a quicker means of transport.
By Muheebwa Hillary
Director of CALM, James Ssekiwanuka, further commented on how this programme has continued and evolved over the years.