Six weeks ago Michael Linke from Australia founded the Namibia branch of the Bicycle Empowerment Network in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia in Southern Africa. BEN Namibia has just received its first shipment of 350 refurbed bicycles from Re~Cycle in the UK. To fund the start-up, Linke sold his soul on eBay...

Australian sells his soul on eBay to create Namibian bike program

"I really believe in the project, so I thought, why not put my soul into it?" said Linke.

He started an auction for his soul on eBay’s Namibian branch.

His soul has purchased quickly.

"Fortunately, the winning bid, N$1 100, turned out to be from a good friend who has my soul in safe-keeping."

The Bicycle Empowerment Network is based in Cape Town, South Africa. It takes second-hand bicycles from UK and European bicycle refurb charities, and sells them through community-based shops it helps establish.

BEN Namibia is modelled on the Cape Town organisation and aims to encourage individuals and community organisations to start shops across Namibia, selling and repairing bikes.

It also donates bikes to deserving causes. Its most recent donation was of 48 bicycles to HIV-AIDS home-based care volunteers, who can extend their range, deliver more medical and sanitary supplies, and see more clients in remote parts of the country.

Linke believes low-tech, cheap bicycles, easily maintained and tough as old rope, can impact on health provision in outlying areas.

"We are developing bicycle ambulances," said Linke.

"This is a stretcher on wheels towed behind a bike, to get people to hospital in remote areas where there is no other transport."

John Stephanus, a trainee mechanic with BEN Namibia, said: "Bikes are a good way to travel. They are cheap and much faster than walking."

John is on an ‘earn-a-bike’ programme at BEN Namibia, exchanging work for mechanic training and credit towards a bicycle.

He has already earned his first bike, which he has given to his brother in Okalongo, who was walking eight kilometres to school and back each day.

Glenn Howard, one of BEN Namibia’s directors, and president of the Namibian Cycling Federation, said:

"A bicycle is a perfect development tool. It can triple a person’s load-carrying capacity and travelling range. It creates new employment opportunities and improves access to education and health care. The Bicycling Empowerment Network Namibia is just what we need, and the Namibian sports cycling community is very supportive."

Source: The Namibian (Windhoek)

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