There is one sure thing about people in prison…they have a lot of time on their hands. Unfortunately, in many people’s eyes, the prison system is broken and doesn’t do a good enough job of rehabilitating criminals. There are, however, innovative prison programs where inmates can contribute positively to society. Jole Rider, a UK based education organization is working to make positive changes by directly affecting the lives of children and their mission intricately involves the help of inmates. Jole Rider’s partner, HM Prison Services, is responsible for the refurbishment of bikes by inmates in prisons around the UK. Once the bikes are completed, Jole Rider packs the bikes into sea containers, a minimum of 333 in each one, and ships them to West Africa. So far, Jole Rider has sent over 6,500 bikes to Gambia where their partner organization pre-selects the beneficiary schools and also oversees the distribution of the bikes. The program, aptly named Bikes 4 Africa, enables children to get to school, which is critical to their future.
Many African children live in remote communities, a long way from their nearest school. Without reliable, affordable and motorized transport, the only way children can get to school is to walk. In the searing heat, their journey can be a daily, dangerous mission. Although bikes here in America might seem like a standard commodity, in Africa, they are a necessity. Having a bicycle makes all the difference in the world for the school children in Africa. Bicycles have a role to play in enabling education, development and lifting people out of poverty, particularly for women. As stated by Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful tool to change the world.”
Jole Rider’s Bikes 4 Africa program has many benefits, to both the prisoners contributing to the program and for the kids who receive bikes. School children are able to get to school, arrive on time, begin the day alert instead of exhausted, stay for extra lessons when necessary, reach academic achievement, arrive home earlier, help their families more at home and remain safe by traveling home from school in the daylight.
This Bikes 4 Africa program also includes components of sustainability. The local field engineers and the selected school students receive training in bike maintenance and servicing, so that they can make bike repairs for their peers. The schools participating in the program buy some of their spares and consumables needed from their surrounding community. Jole Rider’s partners monitor the bike fleets and assist the schools with the maintenance needed.
If you would like to invest in the change that Jole Rider is bringing to Africa, you are encouraged to invest your time, skills, stuff, money or bikes, by visiting their donation page.