Two thousand seven miles is a long ways to ride a bike. Yet, that is just what Dave and Cookie Wiebe are gearing up to do to raise support for a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) project providing bicycles to health workers caring for people with HIV/AIDS in Africa. Their destination is the Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA) biennial convention July 2-6, 2007 in San Jose, California – crossing two mountain ranges, a desert, and 2007 miles from their home in Newton, Kansas. The goal is to raise $10,000 dollars, enough to provide bicycles for 126 health workers in Zambia, Uganda and Kenya through MCC’s Generations at Risk (GAR) program. Donations equaling just $5 per mile, would fund the entire project.
Dave and Cookie served three years with MCC in Chad, so it is not hard for them to imagine the lives of the people this project will help – health workers trying to visit people living with HIV/AIDS in a village setting, carrying supplies and trying to catch any mode of available transportation. There may be some kind of bus or taxi van service between major villages, often in dangerously over-crowded vehicles, but mostly people just walk. Bicycles are increasingly seen as the best option to increase health worker’s access to patients. â€œBicycles, as tools of simple sustainable mobility, more than quadruple healthcare workersâ€™ ability to reach those in need and provide care, and allow healthcare workers to travel greater distances more quickly, while carrying significantly more supplies. This results in better and more frequent healthcare and education for more people at a lower cost. Bicycles increase the productivity and effectiveness of healthcare workers and help achieve program goalsâ€ (www.worldbicyclerelief.org). In addition, the bicycles MCC is providing will be sturdy enough to carry a passenger on the back, making it possible to transport patients to a hospital when necessary.
Since 2002, MCC has made a difference in the lives of more than 10 million people affected by HIV/AIDS by providing health workers, supporting children orphaned by the disease, teaching prevention, and addressing the poverty and injustices that perpetuate the spread of the disease. If you would like to learn more about Generations at Risk (GAR), please see the MCC GAR website
Donations designated to “Generations at Risk Bicycles” can be sent to MCC Central States, 121 East 30th Street, PO Box 235, North Newton, KS 67117.
The project will provide the following:
100 bicycles to the Brethren in Christ Church HIV/AIDS Project in Zambia. These bikes will be used by volunteer caregivers who are active in the project. They will be used for two main purposes: 1) Allowing caregivers to easily reach patients that live at a distance from the church. Many caregivers walk many miles each day to reach patients. Patients often live many miles apart. Having bicycles available will make the task easier for caregivers, and allow them to visit more patients each day. 2) Many patients need to get to the local hospitals and clinics for appointments, testing, and check-ups for their anti-retroviral medication. With the types of bikes the project will purchase, caregivers will be able to give patients rides to the hospital on the back of the bike. This will allow very sick patients, who would not otherwise be able to walk to the hospital on their own, to get to the hospital for medical care and treatment. Each bike is $75 in this area. Total cost is $7,500.
6 bicycles for the Community for Human Development in Zambia. These bikes will be shared by caregiver groups. Each caregiver group in this project area consists of about 10 caregivers. Most caregivers live near each other. Each group will receive one bike. They will share this bike, and use it especially when visiting patients who live far from the center of town. Each bike is $100 in this area. Total cost is $600.
15 bicycles for the AIDS Education Group for Youth in Uganda. These bikes will be used by caregivers who frequently visit patients far from their homes. Each bike is $80 in this area. Total cost is $1,200.
5 bicycles for the Kenya Mennonite Church HIV/AIDS Project in Kenya. These bikes will be shared by caregivers. Each church-based caregiver group will receive a bicycle to share. The bike will be used for visiting patients that live at a far distance from the church, especially when extra supplies are being delivered to patients. Each bike is $100 in this area. Total cost is $500.
Total cost of all project – $9,800. If they reach $10,000, we will find another one or two places to spend it on a bike!Â -Sarah Adams/MCC
How is MCC responding to HIV/AIDS?
Like famine, war, and other issues to which MCC responds, HIV/AIDS can seem at times overwhelming. Because of this, MCC has decided to focus its response on providing funding, personnel, and material aid to existing and new partners that have come forward to address HIV/AIDS in their communities. The response has been through churches and community groups that are addressing HIV/AIDS at the grassroots level. The response is focused on four areas of involvement:
i.e. voluntary counseling and testing, women’s training groups, youth conferences, pastors conferences, video tape players, TV monitors, support for drama group
Home-Based Care/Income Generation
i.e. home-based care kits, supplies, support for home based care teams, inputs for income-generation projects
Orphan Care/Vulnerable Children – Host Family Support
i.e. school fees for children at risk, school supplies, uniforms, nutritional support
Medical Concerns/Health Systems
i.e. basic medicines, HIV blood tests
We also realize the great magnitude of the disease, and therefore the importance of collaboration to address such a multi-faceted problem. While MCC may not have the resources and/or skills to do certain components of the work, we do have the ability to network with a host of other groups that are tackling different angles of the problem. By connecting our partners and those in need with other organizations in a country that might be doing HIV/AIDS related work, their access to other services can be greatly increased. These may include local or national government structures, international bodies such as UNAIDS, academic institutions, public and private health clinics and hospitals, and other local, national, and international NGOs.