By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Bicycle Empowerment Network (BEN), an organisation that imports and refurbishes second-hand bicycles to the benefit of previously disadvantaged Namibians, yesterday received a boost in the amount of N$71 000 from Nedbank Namibia’s Social Investment Fund. This non-governmental organisation since its establishment last year has distributed 550 bicycles to HIV/AIDS home-based caregivers, students and low-income earners. Michael Linke, Managing Director of the Bicycle Empowerment Network (BEN) Namibia, yesterday reported that the project is currently doing well and that today about 20 bicycles would be exported to Mozambique to a woman’s charity organisation. The project would soon spread its wings to Zambia as well, Linke added. HIV/AIDS organisations in Oshakati and Ombalantu received around 100 refurbished pedal cycles handed to volunteers to conduct frequent home-based care activities. Linke says that the aim is to help assist the lower income groups who would get affordable bicycles for use. During the official handover of funds, Nedbank Public Relations Officer Utaara Hoveka stated that the sponsorship forms part of the bank’s commitment to contribute towards improving the wellbeing of the poor and less fortunate. “We recognise the need to address social, economic and environmental issues that directly and indirectly hamper our business,” he added. Considering that not all Namibians are fortunate, Hoveka emphasised the need for well-off Namibians to strive to create bearable conditions that would provide each individual a decent life. The Co-ordinator for Corporate Social Investments and Sponsorships Vido Tjozongoro supported Hoveka indicating that BEN would help to fight unemployment among the youths. “The project involves training in mechanics and these people have become self-employed,” says Tjozongoro. So far, about 10 young people have received training in mechanics and seven are currently undergoing training Some beneficiary groups have started their own bicycle shops in partnership with BEN Namibia, providing them with a source of income and ensuring that the bikes are well maintained. One such place is Mr Elephant’s Bicycle Garage in the DRC camp in Swakopmund, while similar ones are also planned for Katutura, Tsumeb, Oshakati and Outapi before the year ends. According to Linke, the received amount would be channelled towards intensifying the current activities of training more young Namibians in bicycle refurbishment. “By this time next year, we would have tripled our current model and we will continue to work with Nedbank to ensure that more people join the project,” stated Linke. Presently, the request for bicycles by different Namibians is high but Linke stated that the organisation would soon get involved in monitoring and assessing the requests to determine their legitimacy. At the beginning of the year, BEN received its first consignment for this year with a total of 350 pedal cycles arriving at its Southern Industria warehouse. This also consisted of a cycle rickshaw as well as six wheelchairs for donation to HIV/AIDS home-based caregivers and organisations of people living with disabilities. Last month Linke reported about 440 bicycles arrived and in June 2006 another 450 are expected. All these are donations from North America and the United Kingdom.
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