LISA MULLINS: I'm Lisa Mullins, and this is The World.
Beginning this coming springtime, some impoverished schoolchildren in the South African nation of Zambia will no longer have to walk great distances to school. They're getting specially designed bicycles courtesy of a Chicago foundation. The group started four years ago. It's called World Bicycle Relief. Reporter Jay Field has their story.
JAY: On December 26th, 2004, F.K. Day watched on TV as violent floodwaters spread destruction a world away. A devastating Tsunami had hit Indonesia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, and Day, who runs Chicago Bike Parks Giant Tram Corporation, wanted to help. So after talking with his wife and his co-workers, he picked up the phone and started dialing.
F.K. DAY: We called a number of the relief organizations in the US and said, ?What do you guys think if we did a large scale bicycle program and supported people trying to recover from the Tsunami? ? And all of the relief organizations in the US of course said, ?no, no, no. Just send us money.?
JAY: Undeterred, Day and his wife hopped a plane to Jakarta, Indonesia, and then on to Sri Lanka. When they reached that country's water ravaged East Coast, they saw people walking everywhere.
F.K. DAY: People would walk for hours and hours and hours. And a poor person recovering from something as devastating a Tsunami, really needs that extra time per day to help stabilize their family, stabilize their communities, connect themselves with health care, get their kids reconnected with education, re-orient themselves with some level of economic livelihood.
JAY: Day left convinced that the bikes held the key. The aid group World Vision agreed to partner with him. Track Bicycle came on board, too, and a new organization, World Bicycle Relief, was born. It operates out of Tram Corporation's wide-open industrial headquarters in Chicago.
F.K. DAY: You're standing on our indoor track right now.
JAY: Day leads me down a long stretch of hard rubber, past bikes of all makes and models, in various states of testing and modification. We stop in front of some heavy looking numbers leaning against a wall. So this is not the kind of bike that I would want to be riding if I was trying to win the Tour De France?
F.K. DAY: [Laughs]. No. You ? this is the type of bike that you would want to use only on the downhills of the Tour De France, I think.
JAY: Okay. Okay. It may not get you the yellow jersey, but this maroon hunk of steel with thick wheels is perfect if you're a rural dairy farmer lugging milk jugs long distances over bumpy terrain. World Bicycle Relief delivered more than 24,000 of them, and it's provided more than 23,000 for its current project -- expanding and improving home-based care for people living with HIV in Zambia.
Paul Blume is with the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Duke University's Business School.
PAUL: There are a lot of organizations out there that are trying to deal with problems of a similar character. I think that what's a little different about this is that there is involvement of two major corporations that provide a lot of the seed money, in a sense, for what's happening. To their credit, I think they're trying to build mini economies around this ? or businesses around this.
JAY: When bikes are delivered in Zambia, HIV caregivers sign a contract promising to volunteer in the program for 3 years. They're free to use the bikes during off hours. The bikes become theirs when their contract expires.
MATUKE: In the very beginning with the caregivers, because of the distance that they have to cover, they stay a shorter time within in households to visit.
JAY: World Vision's Matuke Walisipu helps coordinate Project Zambia in Musaka.
MATUKE: And now with the bicycles, they can go with their kids, go into a home and provide care taking a shorter time to travel, able to spend more time within the households providing better quality care at household level to the children as well as those who are ill.
JAY: A critical need, in a country where 15 percent of adults are infected with HIV, according to the World Health Organization, and nearly 60,000 die of AIDS each year. In the spring, World Bicycle Relief starts another project. It plans to supply 50,000 bicycles to help Zambian children get to school. For The World, I'm Jay Field.