Images and original text by World Bicycle Relief Program Manager Lameck Kasanga Kasanga
At age 14 in the Chuungu village, Belita would wake up to darkness. She rose before 5 a.m. each day in order to make the trek to her school, a full five kilometers in the Kalomo district of the southern province of the Republic of Zambia. She didn’t have time to help her grandmother with morning chores, instead she simply would grab a meal and begin to walk. Even with her early schedule, she struggled to get to school on time. She dreaded the slap on the wrist she received at the front of the classroom each day when she was late. After class, Belita would begin the hike home, arriving at her village with just enough time to help with chores, eat, and, if time allowed, complete her homework before starting all over again.
Fast-forward one year. Belita is now 15 years old and in 7th grade at the Chilal basic school. She has improved her class standing, moving from 10th to 7th in her grade. She no longer has trouble arriving to school on time and is also able to help her grandmother with chores around the house, all the while having enough time to complete her schoolwork. She now sees herself finishing basic school before enrolling in a nurses training college. What brought about this improvement in grades, family life, and future aspirations? A single Buffalo Bicycle.
As a result of World Bicycle Relief's Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program (BEEP) in Zambia, Belita has conquered her 10 km round-trip journey to school. This education program seeks out students, like Belita, in remote African villages who need access to reliable, quick, transportation. Her story is one full of hardship, because, like all too many children in Zambia, Belita is an orphan with very limited resources.
Belita with her grandmother and her new bicycle
Belita’s mother left their village in hopes of finding employment in the capital city, Lusaka, and her father passed away when she was just an infant. Belita's mother never returned, leaving Belita in the care of her grandmother for the past nine years. Together, along with help from a local World Vision assistance program, Belita and her grandmother Mushimbei survive. Mushimbei uses support from the program to purchase vegetable seeds; the crops are then sold to surrounding villages to support the household. The income they receive from selling their vegetables buys maize, which is ground to a fine powder and cooked into nshima, the staple food for most Zambians. Unfortunately, years of transporting maize to and from the grinding machine, and hauling vegetables to sell in neighboring villages has left Mushimbei with chronic pain in her legs. Thanks to Belita and her bicycle, Mushimbei can now rest.
“Thank you for the bicycle, I used to walk but now I am riding!”
-Belita, age 15
With her new bike, Belita now makes easy work of riding to nearby villages and selling the vegetables grown on their farm. Mushimbei no longer has to haul sacks of maize to the grinder; the bike now carries the entire burden. Recently, when Mushembei fell ill, Belita used her bicycle to take her grandmother to the clinic. The Bike represents more than a means of transportation, according to Belita, “the bike is like our family member since we are only the two of us”.
Belita’s dreams are now within reach. She hopes to remain focused and work hard to provide for herself and her grandmother. Through her hard work and determination she dreams of a future that will include, “a new home, iron sheets for roofing, cash every month for use at the farm, [a] television set, nice clothes and [a] solar power panel for our farm.”
Help others like Belita who Ride to Live.