Tuesday, 07 April 2020

University student collects old bikes to help communities in Africa

University student collects old bikes to help communities in Africa

A STUDENT from Sonning Common is collecting unused bicycles for people in Africa.

Jon Abbott, 21, plans to ship more than 100 to Makeni, a city in northern Sierra Leone, next month.

The bikes will enable people to travel to and from school or work and help traders reach customers. They will also help hospital workers and nurses to visit five times as many patients as they can by walking.

Some will go to ebola orphans and the deprived at Magbenteh Community Boarding School in Bombali district.

Mr Abbott, of Wood Lane, has already got about 80 bikes from more than 50 people in and around Sonning Common. He is storing them in Peppard and has been carrying out repairs with the support of his father.

The project began in May last year when Mr Abbott, who studies business management and marketing at Nottingham Trent University, came up with the name Oxon Bikes for Africa. His room-mate Jack Dunn, 21, designed the logo.

Mr Abbott, who is now on a placement year at marketing consultancy Purple Frog in Wheatley, developed the idea throughout the summer while working in recruitment at H M Staffing in Reading.

There he met Mo Bangura, from Makeni, who told him about the Swiss-Sierra Leone Development Foundation, a non-governmental organisation which provides healthcare and education and agreed to help when Mr Abbott made contact.

He is now asking businesses for financial support as he has already spent about £1,000 on bike repairs and expects to spend another £2,200 shipping them to Freetown.

Mr Abbott, a former pupil of Chiltern Edge school, will spend eight days in Sierra Leone with Mr Bangura, who has now returned to the country.

He said: “I will go around the villages with Mo, meet his family, see where he grew up and experience some of their food and culture. We will also have a bike day when we can hand them all out.

“It’s a chance to make a real positive impact in the world while getting some good experience. I’m really looking forward to it.

“On a personal level, it gives me experience of managing projects while doing some good at the same time.”

Mr Abbott has been supported by his parents Mark and Sue.

He said: “Mum has been coming round collecting the bikes with me. My dad helps keep me on track. I can get carried away a bit but he has got my back and is more realistic about it all.”

Mr Abbott has received many different bikes, including off-road models.

“They are in varying conditions and I have to do the repairs,” he said. “It could just be a chain or a seat that needs replacing.

“We do get some kids’ bikes. We also have bikes from relatives of those who’ve passed away. There’s a couple from people who feel they’re too old to cycle anymore.”

Mr Abbott says he might expand the project to Uganda and Nigeria, where his university lecturer has contacts.

For more information or to donate a bike, visit
www.oxonbikesforafrica.co.uk

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