They once languished in Garda stations as unclaimed bikes, but now they’re getting a second life in Gambia, bringing children long distances to school.
Tony McCarthy, originally from Cork, explains the various steps Rotary Dún Laoghaire, of which he is a member, took to secure 100 bikes for Gambia.
“The bikes had been stolen and ended up at a Garda station. After a year at a Garda station, they’re sold for scrap if not reclaimed,” he said.
“We approached Dún Laoghaire Garda Station. We asked for 100 of the bikes.”
Next, they employed the help of prisoners, who took on a training course in order to help with the bikes.
“We then hired a truck and transported them to Loughan House Prison where the prisoners refurbished them with materials provided by the Irish Prison Service.
“This allowed the prisoners to study for a bike mechanic course. It helps with their rehabilitation into society and their job prospects,” said Tony.
Finally, after the bikes were back in working order, they were shipped to Africa. “The bikes left in a container for Gambia on September 3. They were given to children who have to travel long distances to school in extreme heat. They’re strong, sturdy bikes and they were given to children in both primary and secondary school,” explained Tony.
While the bikes were free initially and their refurbishment was assisted by the Irish Prison Service, it did cost Rotary Dún Laoghaire to transport them. “It was €15 to transport each bike so it cost €1,500 in total to get the 100 bikes to Gambia.
“We fundraised for the project. A collection of short stories and poems Forty Years a Growing was published to celebrate the ruby jubilee of the Dún Laoghaire Active Retirement Association, and profits went to the project. From Rotary Ireland, 3,000 bikes have gone out,” said Tony.
The Rotary School Bikes Africa Project is just one of many which Rotary Dún Laoghaire have in hand.
“We’re involved in other projects. The Rotary Crocus campaign’s aim is to eradicate polio. So we buy 5,000 crocuses and donate them to the parks section of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. The money that’s raised goes to vaccinations against polio in places like Afghanistan.
“We also fund study grinds for students so they can get into education and out of the poverty trap. We also paid for the renovation of a room in Crumlin’s children’s hospital, a parents’ room. In three years, we’ve supported 17 different organisations,” Tony said.
They raise their own funds through innovative means. “We raise money by donating our time. Our members do the postal survey where we receive and send post to test correspondence. We are paid, and then the money issued goes to a clean water project in Kenya.
“We also raise funds by doing stewards at events like IronMan. Money from that went to Blackrock Hospice,” said Tony. “At home, we do cash or dry goods collections at supermarkets. We give the proceeds to St Vincent de Paul for hampers.
“We were collecting outside a supermarket and three times people came out with full trollies and just left them with us, without saying a thing. It’s very heartening to see.
“Our motto is a simple one: Service before self.
“The things we do are not for our benefit, but for the community,” added Tony.