From Brian Moonga, World Bicycle Relief’s Zambia Country Director
Friends, my story is a happy yet sad one. Growing up in rural Zambia with friends who were vulnerable was difficult. I was lucky. My parents were teachers. We lived in a small house behind the school. All I had to do was walk around the corner to reach class each day. But I sat beside friends who had to run incredible distances to get there.
When I was in sixth grade, I used to sit next to a girl named Elizabeth. She sat on my left. On my right was Joseph. In the morning, in winter, the grass was very wet. Elizabeth had to run through the tall grass to get to school. There was no time for a bath in the morning so when she arrived she was wet, cold and smelled badly after running 7 kilometers.
Joseph had to run 11 kilometers to reach school. He also arrived freezing.
Both of them moved close to me because I was warm and dry, but I pushed them away. I didn’t feel sorry for them then. I really thought the ground was level.
I made it to secondary school on my first try – only 9 of us out of 45 made it. It was common for people to repeat grade 7. Joseph and Elizabeth both failed. Elizabeth tried three times, but didn’t make it – and then she got married. Joseph tried three times but eventually dropped out.
Later in life, I started to see how distance affects children in rural areas. I had an apology to make. I went back to the village to find Joseph and Elizabeth.
I found Joseph. He was HIV+.
Elizabeth had died. She was married at age 16 and had 7 children. I told her sons and daughters that their mother had been my best friend. I never got the chance to apologize for pushing Elizabeth away.
I did apologize to Joseph – in front of everyone. It was a humbling experience.
I was not smarter than Elizabeth or Joseph. I did not work harder.
The only difference between me and the other children at school – the thing that created the divide – was distance.
That truth will forever be painful for me.
I can only imagine what my classmates would have accomplished if they could have gone on to business school like me. Instead, they were imprisoned by distance – confined by their lack of mobility.
My work at World Bicycle Relief is not a job to me. It’s a chance to make amends for all my friends who couldn’t make it. Couldn’t GO to school, GO to a doctor, GO beyond the world that their two feet provided.
Every day when I get up to go to work I think about the next student like Joseph or Elizabeth that I can help.
Will you join me? Will you give the life-changing gift of GO in 2018?