By Loretta Henderson
Over the next 6 months, as I continue to pedal the world by bicycle, I am planning on heading from Cambodia, Asia to Africa via Laos, China, Kazakhstan, and Russia crossing the Black Sea, through Turkey and then catching a boat to Africa. There are still lots of details to work out but I don’t doubt this will happen because after 21 months of pedaling 14 countries and a whole lot of bicycle miles already, Pandemic The Magic Bicycle and my legs have proven to be such trusty steeds. So with a little hope and faith, I will arrive by magic bicycle in Africa sometime in the early summer. As all you who follow the website know, I have dreamed about an African project. However, as the embryo of the dream develops in the near future into a fetus, the developing dream will have the benefit of spanning across 3 continents and 7 countries.
The dream? It is to raise awareness and funds for bicycle ambulances in rural Africa throughout my reminding 7,000 miles (11000km) pedaling voyage to get there. A what? That’s right, a bicycle ambulance. In rural Africa, the people are so inventive and spirited, that a bicycle is truly saving lives. In countries throughout sub-Sahara Africa, bicycles with attached stretchers are being used to transport birthing mothers and the sick to the nearest hospital. In rural Malawi, often the closest hospital is 30 kilometers (about 20 miles) away. The surrounding villages lack funds for vehicles and without adequate medical resources women and babies are dying in childbirth at alarming rates.
With the UN pledge of slashing child mortality rates in the developing world, the rural villages of Namibia, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda are in need of bicycle ambulances to safely transport birthing mothers and the sick to nearby hospitals. A bicycle ambulance costs about $500 (USD). They are being built locally in a Bicycle Empowerment Network (BEN Namibia) facility in Namibia which has already provided numerous to Namibian villages. In these villages the woman and child mortality rates have been drastically reduced. In most of sub-Sahara Africa, there is a severe shortage of doctors and proper medical facilities. Often a woman in the village serves as a midwife; babies are frequently delivered in a hut on a dirt floor without medical supplies, a mere 10 miles (16 km) from the hospital.
Adequate transportation to the hospital is often needed due to infection and other complications. The 10-20 miles (16-32km) of terrain between village and hospital is dirt track roads; it is perfect terrain for the bicycle ambulance. And African legs are proving to be perfect for the job.
The sturdy construction of the bicycle ambulance holds up better to the rugged terrain then other modes of transportation. Some bicycle ambulances are mobile stretchers; others are bicycles with portable beds and a canopy roof. The villages that already use a bicycle ambulance have reduced their infant and woman mortality rates by 90%. Therefore, I will be dedicating the next leg of my around the world by bicycle adventure to raising awareness and funds for a bicycle ambulance that will be given to the local midwife through a partnership with the Namibian based Bicycle Empowerment Network (BEN) Namibia, Rotary Clubs of ChinaTown Vancouver (Rotary International) and Design for Development in Canada. [http://www.benbikes.org.za/namibia/projects/ambulances.html]
Loretta Henderson grew up in Cobourg, Ontario and she is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario. A year and a half ago, what started as going to England to buy a bicycle has gotten out of hand for this cooky Canadian. A dozen countries later, thousands of pedal miles still beckon on the road ahead. A solo female storyteller with a penchant for finding the hilarity in the mundane, Loretta will knock you senseless with her wisdom and wit as she perches high on Pandemic The Magic Bicycle’s seat and pedals around the world…or at least that’s what a paid friend said, seconded by her Dad!
Please donate to the bicycle ambulance project at: www.skalatitude.blogspot.com
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