Why on earth would any charity on a mission to provide sustainable transport solutions for one of the poorest countries in the world, send a load of bikes to Malawi and then bring them back to the UK?! It’s a good question and one that has quite a long answer.
Here’s the story….
Hopefully you all know about our super Elephant Bikes, the original charity “buy one, give one” utility bike? If not, here’s the story in brief:
When Royal Mail phased out the use of delivery bikes, we rescued nearly 20,000 of them from going for scrap because these robust utility bikes are so perfect for use in Malawi where we work. We shipped around 8000 of the bikes to Chilomoni Township, where our team of local bike mechanics fixed them up and sold them, low cost; owning a bike in Malawi is literally life-transforming. The money raised funds a vital children’s centre in the heart of the township.
But then we found we urgently needed to raise funds to ship the remaining bikes to Malawi. Royal Mail kindly gave us permission to sell some bikes in the UK to fund shipping the rest to Malawi as long as we re-coloured and re-branded them and Elephant Bike was born; every bike we sell in the UK pays for another bike to be sent to Malawi.
Many of these amazingly robust bikes came to us after thousands of miles of use and were suffering slightly from being stored outside (we could always tell which bikes came from seaside towns they had so much more rust on them because of the salt spray!) We relied on Royal Mail also donating their stock of spares so that the Malawi mechanics could revamp the bikes to make them as good as new. But as the supply of spare parts dried up, the Malawi team would often use the parts off two bikes to make one good bike and this lead to a pile of spare frames building up. We couldn’t have those going to scrap!
In Malawi there is a still a strong tradition of painting by hand. Things that are normally computer generated here in the UK, like shop signs or advertising boards, are still hand painted over there. So we asked talented local artists to use their skill to create a range of limited edition hand-painted bikes for us to ship back to the UK! It may seem daft to ship the frames back to the UK again, but it’s all part of the Cycle of Good, it’s created employment in Malawi and made good use of valuable resources.
These robust uni-sex bikes are perfect for shopping and commuting, with huge carrying ability, you’ll find you can give up on the car journey and safely carry all your shopping home by bike. You’ll find the full specification for the bikes at www.elephantbike.co.uk and you’ll see all seven of the unique hand-painted designs in the products section of this site. Grab one quick, and stand out on the road!