Tuesday, 19 Nov 2002

WEST MERSEA, Essex, U.K.

Hello again! The Royal Mail is our greatest source of bikes, in both number and quality, giving us 3,000 load-carrying bikes per year. The bikes used to be chopped in half and thrown away, after seven years of being looked after by a full-time mechanic — they are now an extremely effective example of Re-Cycling.

Royal Mail bikes get a new lease on life in South Africa.

It took 1.5 years of begging and groveling to convince the Royal Mail to give us the bikes; the organization has been very worried about liability issues, because it designed the bikes. Persistence … Royal Mail is an example of an organization where the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing, due to the size of it. It is still chucking some good stuff out, so we keep at it, patiently, as the bikes are superb! The local prison is going to refurbish some of the Postie’s old bikes, tying in with our goal of increasing our number of U.K. beneficiaries.

Re~Cycle also receives bikes from individuals. We ask for a donation with each bike toward shipping, on the recommendation of one of our U.S. partners, Pedals for Progress, in New Jersey. Since many of you are in the U.S., let me list some other bike development groups:

On the money front, we try to get lots of types of contributions stacked up, so no single party has to bear the full cost. Those kicking in contributions include:

  • person who gives the bike
  • local rotary, etc.
  • U.K. trusts
  • South African government, with a per bike subsidy
  • South African trusts and companies
  • the end user

Overall, our funding should be okay, because we hit lots of issues (women, youth, environment) and because the concept of what we’re doing is easy to grasp. We do have a bit of a cash flow situation at the moment, however; one needs to keep applying for money to make sure it keeps coming in.

One of my goals is to emulate last year’s U.K. charity of the year, Riders For Health, in getting industry and cyclist support and developing the number of cycle shops and manufacturers that donate old/outdated or unwanted stock. Spare parts are very important, for refurbishing and also ongoing maintenance, especially as we set up a growing number of workshops, which all will need a lot of stock to start, due to the lack of standard-size parts.

Re~Cycle volunteers pack bikes for shipment to Africa.

We had a local retired chap over this morning to look at how he can help us. He seemed very keen and organized, the latter being a sought after quality in Re~Cycle! It turns out he’s got lots of energy and some good ideas, though he also seemed very set on doing things his way. You have to take what you can get, hey! I was rather hoping he would help recruit and manage volunteers, a weak area.

I’m looking to develop and refine our work in Essex, as well as setting up seven more “hubs” over the next three years. One of the big questions is the relationship between headquarters and the local branches, finding a balance of autonomy and control, looking at accounting, legal issues, and such forth. London is a current priority, due to density of bikes/shops and the amount of money there. One of the main things needed for a hub is storage, with is far from cheap in the city!

Our main South African partner has a meeting this afternoon with the minister of transport (Dullah Omar, who was one of Nelson Mandela’s lawyers and friend). The meeting was scheduled to look at ways to partner with the government more efficiently and helpfully. I’ll get the details from the meeting and report back tomorrow.

Gotta nip and pick up my daughter …