I grew up in a village in the Fort Portal region, in western Uganda. When I was nine years old, my younger brother died while I was trying everything to do possible to take him to the nearest hospital, which was about 10 kilometres away. It was an experience that marked my life, and at that moment, I wondered why we couldn’t get to these sorts of places quickly.
I then returned to the orphanage, where they bought me a bicycle. Hours of walking to school suddenly took just minutes. I therefore had more time to study and my marks improved. My being able to go to the United States to study was definitely thanks to the bike.
The ambulance bike has become CA Bikes’ most popular product. Sick people lie down in the back and are transported to the nearest hospital.
"Our work doesn’t stop at teaching villagers how to make a bike: we also teach them how to use them, or how to fix them if there is a problem"
After my studies, I decided to come back to Uganda despite the job offers I received in the United States. With a few volunteers, we started trawling through dumps to find scrap metal, tyres and wood to make regular bicycles. We then expanded to make cargo bikes [to transport materials], then bicycle ambulances capable of transporting a person lying down.
We have run workshops to explain how to build bicycles from scratch. I wanted to ensure a community can take ownership of the object from A to Z. Our work doesn’t stop at teaching villagers how to make a bike: we also teach them how to use them, or how to fix them if there is a problem. Some continue making bikes even after we leave.
The first CA Bikes bicycles were assembled with scrap material found in dumps.
We now make more solid bikes than ever, thanks to organisations that finance us. But despite the success of our project, we are dependent on the investors’ choice; they are not interested in every type of bicycle in the same way. Many more donations are made to help buy ambulance bikes designed to transport sick and pregnant women [in Uganda, 61 out of every 1,000 babies die during their first year], even though we also want to develop wheelchair bikes for disabled people.