On Friday we went to the Muanja Cosmmento School in the Chimonbo District. There we gave out the bikes we built yesterday at World Bicycle Relief. We mainly gave them out to children, about 75% of the kids receiving the bikes were girls, and the remaining 25% were boys. World Bicycle Relief is really trying to promote education among girls, since they are the ones who have the most domestic responsibilities which often prevents them from attending school regularly. The region itself was a lot more rural than the slums we had previously visited. Most people were living in huts and the roofs were made of straw. I can now understand why bikes are so necessary in such an area. The distance the kids have to walk to get to school is quite long. By having a bike they are more likely to not only attend school but also be more attentive and awake during the lessons. When we arrived at the school, while we were greeting the head men and the school’s administration, the school choir was singing a welcoming song to us. When we had visited Chikumbuso, the children had greeted us the same way. However, this visit felt very different because I did not realize before how important these bikes were to them and how much of an impact we were going to have on the children and their families. We then sat down, and the donation ceremony began. People were still introducing themselves to us, and the choir continued to sing some traditional songs. We were told that we were going to be changing people’s lives. The moment that we arrived and gave the bikes to the children and their families, was the moment when I actually felt like I was changing someone’s life. The bikes would allow the children and their families to travel long distances, it would not only alleviate them from walking them but also carrying all of their needs on their backs and heads. When the time came to give the families the bikes, I was very surprised by how much happier the parents were compared to the kids themselves. For instance when I gave one of the bikes to a young girl, her mother was so happy she kissed me on my cheek twice. I think that the parents were happier, because they realized how important a bike is and how much of an impact it can have. Furthermore the parents were older, so they had probably struggled with the walking distances and the lack of education already. The kids were shier most likely because it was their first time seeing foreigners and did not realize how much of an effect one bike could have. It was at the moment when the mother kissed me on the cheek when I was so grateful that I was a part of the entire process, because I knew I had help facilitate that girl’s life. She can go to school even when it rains, she can now pay attention to the teacher and understand what the lesson is about. Being able to give a person a second shot at education is the most incredible feeling I have ever experienced personally, and that was how I felt when I gave that little girl the bicycle. Now I know what the chaperones meant when they told us we were going to be changing lives today.
Nora vT., Washington International School