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June 13, 2008

Bicycles for Education in Togo, West Africa

Alaffia shea butter
Shea butter production for
Alaffia skin care products

As responsible travelers, the Daily Travelers are always looking for ways to give back to the communities they journey through. Condé Nast Traveler's Five & Alive Fund, for example, created in partnership with Population Services International, helps children five and under access malaria prevention and treatment, nutritional supplements, pneumonia treatment and safe water. Here's another cool project we found in West Africa called Bicycles for Education.

by Julia Bainbridge

Bicycles for Education, a project founded by Alaffia Sustainable Skin Care and the Global Alliance for Community Empowerment, just shipped its second round of over 2,000 bicycles to disadvantaged students (mainly girls) in Togo, West Africa.

About 90% of girls in rural areas of Togo drop out before finishing secondary school, according to UNICEF. Only large towns house these schools, so students from outlying villages can walk up to 10 miles just to get to class every day (there is no bus service). It's physically demanding, often leaving them tired and unproductive, and given girls' household roles as their mothers' assistants, domestic responsibilities come first. So, in the end, the choice is simple for them: stay home.

Enter Alaffia. By supplying qualifying individuals (depending on household income, distance from school, and gender) with a bicycle, helmet, and training session, the people behind the Bicycles for Education project believe they will gradually reduce the reliance of African countries on Western societies. The thinking goes something like this: Get girls back in school, reduce gender and economic inequalities, increase self-empowerment, and eradicate poverty.

Since the first shipment in 2006, bicycle recipients in the 15 communities where they were distributed are still using the bikes for their intended purpose (getting to school). The next 2,000 used bikes were collected through drives in the US and shipped to Togo, where they will be repaired by local mechanics and prepared for distribution. (Bicycles for Education impacts donor communities, as well: It keeps bikes from ending up in landfills and recycles those in bad condition.) Funding for all aspects of the project comes from the sales of Alaffia's skin care line.

Further reading:
* Learn how you can improve children's health worldwide
* Make a difference


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