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Volunteering in Ghana
Read this if youíre interested in becoming a volunteer.

We are looking for volunteers who are interested in bicycles and development. We value the bicycle as a practical, enjoyable, emission-free mode of transportation, and a serious contender for moving people and goods in the poorer countries. Experience with mechanics is a plus, but isnít absolutely necessary. Experience and interest in working with community development projects, preferably in less-developed countries is just as important as knowing how to fix bicycles, no its even more important.

The general picture in Ghana is that bicycles help people save money on transport, save time that they would spend walking, help kids reach school on time so they arenít punished by their teachers for being late, farmers can get their produce to markets that are farther away than if they were walking, people sell their wares off the back of their bikes, old ladies send their grandchildren on errands for them, multiple people travel to funerals/weddings/town/market on the same bike at the same time.

There are new bikes coming from Asia that are simple and many people know how to work on them. There are also used bikes from Japan. These are almost all one-speeds. Lately there have been some new mountain bikes with gears that come from China and they are very low quality. The derailleurs break really fast and the tires burst, rims bend, etc... Our bikes are used (often really really used), but people still prefer them over other bicycles and they have gears, which makes people's lives easier when they're riding through sand, up and down hills or carrying loads of produce or people on their bikes. And they're recycled. We like the idea of people in Ghana using bikes that people in US/UK/Australia don't want anymore as opposed to manufacturing junky new bikes to send here while American's bikes are rotting in landfills or people's garages.

Here are some potential roles for international volunteers:

Follow-up researcher
VBP is trying to learn more about what has happened to our bikes and program participants of the last 7 years. Essentially this research amounts to using lists of workshop and/or Earn-a-Bike participants to find people and their bicycles, conduct interviews and take pictures. The purpose of this research is to uncover successes, shortcomings and unintended consequences of our programs. That information can then be used to revise old programs, design new ones and make VBP more effective. Furthermore, we need to make sure repairers know how to work on our bikes and have access to tools and replacement parts. We are serious about creating self-sustaining networks to disseminate materials and information and to do so we need to fully understand how current networks function.

Bicycle Business Research
We see that bicycles are big business in Ghana. Not only do they help the poor get around, reduce oil imports, and protect the environment, the bicycle sector employs tens of thousands of people in Ghana alone. Bike business research would help make the case to other African nations about the benefits of pro-bike policies.

Womenís Program Coordinator
The Village Bicycle Project is dedicated to closing the gap between men and womenís access to technology. Women do a lot of work in Ghana and we want to make sure that they also have access to technology and skills that will make them more productive and improve their quality of life. Furthermore, we believe that improving the quality of life of a woman affects families and communities in a profound way. Our womenís programs are varied and flexible, as we identify the needs of women in different communities. The Womenís Program Coordinator has the exciting job of recruiting and training interested women to work for our program as instructors. It also includes conducting follow-up research focusing on our womenís programs. Ultimately, Ghanaian women are able to identify the needs of other Ghanaian women better than a foreign volunteer and so we hope to bring more women into the project as instructors and researchers.

The time commitment for volunteers varies. My first response to that question is that a volunteer should stay as long as possible. I think six months is a good amount of time but a year is even better. Depending on your level of experience, it will take the first 2-4 months to get oriented and learn how to function in Ghana and understand the big picture of the project. During this time you can do things like attend workshops, see containers get unloaded, practice living in Ghana, cook, make friends and learn some of the language. Hanging out is really important in Ghana. The more you hang out, chat, sit quietly with people, join them in whatever they're doing, etc., the more they will trust you and be frank with you.

If you are interested in volunteering, contact us at info@VillageBicycleProject.org. Tell us about yourself, your skills and experience and why you are interested in volunteering with VBP.

last update: 4/10/2009

Village Bicycle Project
PO Box 9407 • Moscow ID 83843 • 509-330-2681  • info at VillageBicycleProject dot orghttp://www.VillageBicycleProject.org/