In rural Malawi it is common for students to walk as far as 10 kilometers, each way every day, to attend the nearest high school. According to government statistics, a staggering 60% of students who start high school do not finish. In an effort to eliminate the transportation hurdle faced by many students and increase the likelihood that students will complete high school, Warm Heart Ministries joined a partnership between World Bicycle Relief (WBR) and the Joliet Rotary Club which established a program to provide bicycles to students at the Adolarata High School in rural Malawi. Since the program’s inception, Warm Heart Ministries has stepped in to monitor the effectiveness of the program by maintaining a relationship with the headmaster at the Adolorata High School.
From its headquarters in the Fulton Market District in Chicago, World Bicycle Relief, a non-profit associated with one of the world’s largest manufacturers of bicycle components, manufactures and distributes a bicycle specifically designed for use in developing countries, including Malawi. Along with the bicycle, World Bicycle Relief has developed an extensive program to educate and engage students, administrators, and parents to ensure that any bicycles distributed to students will be used to get the student to school each day. As part of the program, local bicycle mechanics are trained to maintain the bicycles, a local parts inventory is provided, and a Bicycle Service Committee is assembled to determine which students are in most need of transportation. Students who receive a bicycle sign a “study to own” contract that allows them to keep the bicycle so long as they are using the bike for educational purposes and fulfilling academic requirements – and upon graduation the bicycle becomes the property of the student.
WBR and Joliet Rotary implemented the program at the Adolorata High School in rural Malawi and distributed 70 bicycles – 70% of them to female students. The bicycle distribution ceremony is shown below:
Since the program’s inception Warm Heart Ministries has implemented a monitoring program and maintained a relationship with the Headmaster at the Adolorata High School in an effort to measure the effectiveness of the program. On a recent visit Warm Heart Ministries met with the Bicycle Service Committee and added seven (7) more bicycles to the program. The plan is to add thirty (30) more bicycles to the program and continue to supplement it as donations are received.
Seventeen-year-old Felistus in the Zomba District of rural Malawi
“I was skeptical throughout the whole process. I felt like I was dreaming when I received a Buffalo Bicycle,” says Felistus. “That was when I believed that God can answer prayers.”
Felistus’ trip to school now takes just 45 minutes. No more journeys in the dark, no late arrivals, no missed classes. Instead, she can fully dedicate herself to her education and even participate in study circles after school because of the time she saves getting home on her bicycle.
Read more about seventeen-year-old Felistus in the Zomba District of rural Malawi being a part of the World Bicycle Relief program and describing the impact of having a bicycle in this article at worldbicyclerelief.org.