David Parks looks at bicycle parts as a way to promote social change.
On a recent trip to Uganda, Parks discovered an organization that encourages children to bicycle together. The group’s goal is to help youngsters develop friendships, deterring them from taking part in inter-community rivalry, improve self-esteem, and give them bike repair skills they can use to earn money when they’re older.
One of the main problems is the lack of bicycle parts in the area, and Parks decided to do something about that. He posted on Halifax Cycle Chat, asking for donations of bicycle parts.
“I was amazed with the response,” he said. “I’m heading back soon, and I have enough parts to fill my extra suitcases.
“I will collect more though, because I’ll be making more trips.”
Parks, who lives in Halifax, works at the Dal AC campus in Bible Hill, and was in Uganda as a project co-ordinator.
“I wanted to find a bike because biking is the best way to see places,” he said. “You can interact with people in a way you can’t when you travel by car.
“It’s also a good way to get over jet lag, because it tires you out and you get a good sleep.”
He rented a bike through Go Free Uganda, and a group of children, aged 10 to 15, took him on a four-hour tour around Kampala. Although he spends considerable time on a bicycle at home, he found it difficult to keep up with the youngsters.
“We were at fairly high elevations with rough terrain and steep hills, and the sun was beating down on us,” he said.
Motorcycle taxi drivers who don't respect rules of the road add to the peril. Parks said he’s rode in Bangkok, Seoul, Tokyo, Manila and Mexico City, and found cycling in Kampala the most difficult.
Because of these issues, there are no stores selling new bicycles – meaning few second-hand bikes, or bike parts.
“What might be junk to you could help others,” said Parks. “They need pedals, brake pads, cables, chain rings, brackets, chains, shifters, inner tubes, seats…
“Volunteers run the programs so they don’t need a lot of money, but they do need parts.”
Parks will be travelling to Uganda every four to six weeks for some time, and is willing to take parts each time.