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Relieving Poverty - Taking Old Bikes to New Territory
Dec 99 newsletter from Re-Cycle charity.
21st December 1999

Welcome to the first issue of what will be a bi-monthly e-mail newsletter of the world of Re~Cycle, your favourite bicycling charity.

As you are reading these words there's a group of brave volunteers loading our 3rd 40-foot container of bikes. It is bound for South Africa as our project there is going so well that we almost distributed all the 800 bikes we shipped from the UK and the USA!

Getting off the ground has been difficult, with a 'catch 22' problem of no track record = no funding = no track record... However, the good news is that with today's bikes, we've shipped around 1400 used bicycles to 3 countries and have been awarded £75,000 by the lottery for our project in South Africa, split over 2 years. The application was very detailed (they even sent someone round to interview us) which means that other funders can now trust and fund us.

I recently went over to S. Africa again (set up our workshop last December) to ensure that our 1st big contract went smoothly. The All Africa Games, sometimes called Africa's Olympics, had ordered 200 bikes with boxes on the rear for their maintenance personnel, for which we received a lot of good publicity. My counterpart in our US sister charity ITDP, Paul White, was in South Africa for a month before I arrived and hired a manager, Gustav Erlank. His job is to run the project in our absence, fundraising, looking after our mechanics and our local partner organisations.


My stay overlapped with Paul's for a couple of days so he could 'pass the baton' of people to meet and follow up. The whole trip was very busy and I foolishly made the mistake, just like the last time, not to take a couple of days off to look around.

Gustav has good business experience and we are leaving the project in good hands, having trained him up in our work and objectives. We have set up a charity in South Africa called Afribike, with Re~Cycle, ITDP and South Africans on the board. Fresh pictures of our Afribike project are up on out website (thanks Phil!).

To give you an idea how well the S African side of our work is going, 3 government regions have had independent studies of the transport problems, and came up with bicycles as a good solution. They have approached us, as the Bike Experts in South Africa, to set up and run pilot projects, which is what we love to do anyway.


Midrand (the fastest growing area in RSA) EcoCity have recently accepted our proposal and will give our Afribike project £30,000 (see website ) to help students get to school by setting up bike lanes and workshops. In another of these regions, many children walk around 6km to school, some up to 11km each way

The National Department of Transport loves us; we've had A LOT of great media exposure, and received gifts in kind and general support from all quarters.

A potential donor is the World Bank, which has produced an excellent 8-minute video about our project, so that the top brass can see what is happening on the ground. One of their arguments is that people save a dollar per day by cycling rather than paying for transport. This is a quarter of their daily income of $4.

One of the most exciting things we are doing involves a US group called Xtracycle. They have invented a simple steel structure that converts any ordinary bicycle into a long wheelbase cargo-carrying vehicle, which can carry 100kg / 220lb.


A pilot project in S Africa a couple of years ago showed that people collecting paper for recycling doubled and tripled their income using a work-bike. Income generation is one of our focuses, and this enabled them to pay for the bike in a few months and earn money after that.

We're going to be selling Xtracycle in Europe to subsidise sending bikes overseas. It is much cheaper than a custom made workbike and has "wings" which fold up when not in use, which is great for traffic. It's closest competitor 'the bike trailer' is more difficult and up to five times more expensive to build, less manoeuvrable, and less robust (though in some cases has a higher payload capacity).

Re~Cycle was set up as a charity because I was asked for advice on setting up a bike factory in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. We shipped a 40-foot container there this summer and the container has finally arrived at its destination, after dock strikes and customs problems... We are working with a school, running a vocational course in bike repair and maintenance. Splendid news just in is that the Minister for Education will make our course a part of the national curriculum when we are successful!

The 40-foot box from the USA is in Port-au-Prince at the time of writing, on route to Cap Haitian on the North coast where 2 volunteers are currently setting up another workshop to receive the bikes, parts, tools and trailers.


We're VERY much on the hunt for several storage points scattered around London, single garage size or above, 4 months or over, with infrequent access, not needing to be 100% secure or plush!

Bike shops do lots of upgrades, throw away quality used parts out and are keen to help us. We'll get people with bike trailers to collect fortnightly and use a van and trailer every other month and go round the storage points.

Being the season of giving, we've relaxed our policies on receiving donations, so go for it! The government's Millennium Gift Aid means that we can claim back the tax on gifts over £100.

I very much hope that the festive season is good for you all and that you will help us to help less well off people and the planet.

Much love
Merlin Matthews Director Re~Cycle
Relieving Poverty - Taking Old Bikes to New Territory Charity # 1063570
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60 High Street, West Mersea, Essex, CO5 8JE, UK Tel. 44 (0) 1206 38 2207 Fax. 5729
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