First Shipment Arrives in Amuru, Uganda!

News released on: 
May 21st, 2012

The Amuru Health Worker Mobility Project in Northern Uganda is in high gear!

The bikes arrived in April, the workshop has been constructed, the parts and tools are being organized and the training of the Village Health Workers has begun!  Omar Bhimji, BNB Mechanic Fieldworker in Uganda, is training 15 Village Health Workers in advanced bicycle mechanics over the next 6 weeks, and is working with the leadership of the Amuru Village Health Worker Association to establish the project management systems for long-term sustainability.  Over the next 4 months, 300 bicycles will be adjusted, overhauled and distributed to the active Village Health Workers in Amuru, who will also be trained in bicycle maintenance and basic repair, to support them to more effectively and efficiently provide health services to people in rural areas.

Here is a write-up from Omar about the container un-loading in Amuru:

"There are bikes on the ground in Uganda! And in the rafters. And everywhere in between.

On Wednesday, April 25th, after 5 months at sea, in freight yards and on the road, the container containing all of the bicycles, spare parts and tools needed for Bikes Not Bombs project in Amuru, Uganda arrived at it's final destination: Lacor Health Centre III Amuru.

Word that the container was in-country/on it's way/almost here had been spreading throughout the community. All week, volunteers from the Amuru Village Health Team (VHT) had been stopping by on their way to or from their gardens, asking for news or hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive box. When it finally arrived, there was a burst of excitement and energy and then... more waiting. The container sat, sealed and silent, baking in the sun in the Health Centre's courtyard; the final piece of the puzzle was still missing.

24 hours after the container arrived, a good-natured customs agent named Amala was ferried down from Uganda's northern border by our friends at St. Mary's Hospital Lacor. He scanned the paperwork, walked up to the container, unceremoniously broke the shipping seal - and it was on. As 16 volunteers excitedly formed a line, we opened the doors and were confronted by a wall of bikes. I clambered up its face, found a chink in the wall and, after checking my handhold and footing, heaved: the first kid's bike popped out of the container and was lowered into the waiting hands of an eager volunteer.

Over the next 3 hours more than 400 bikes, 120 pairs of crutches and countless parts were removed from the container and laid, in as random and confusing a pattern as possible, on the Health Centre's lawn. When the last random parts were swept from the container, our custom's agent roused himself from his seat in the shade and ambled forward to survey the goods. We walked with him through the field counting all of the bikes. There were fewer, it turned out, than were listed on the shipping manifest. Were we okay to use the documented number for tax purposes? No problem. Next, we counted the crutches piled to one side - same issue, same no-fuss solution. Then Amala turned back to the bikes and squinted. What were those orange things? Pumps, needed because the valves on our tubes were different than those used locally. And those boots? Air casts, the Health Centre's director informed him, which would help patients to regain mobility while they healed.

Amala smiled; he was curious and thorough, not trying to catch us out. He signed the inspection form, said his goodbyes, wished us luck organizing everything, and took his leave. We immediately started organizing and humping bikes into the VHT's multi-purpose building, which will be our storage and workshop area until the project's own building is ready. We worked until dark, and then reconvened the next morning to finish the job. By mid-afternoon on Friday, April 27th, all of the bikes, parts and tools that had arrived only 48 hours previously were securely packed (and I do mean packed: the stack/pile of bikes reaches literally to the building's ceiling!) away. We went home, showered, had dinner - and I had my first glass of wine in 3 months to celebrate this long-awaited project milestone."