DC Bamboo Bike “Artist,” Ugandan Bark Cloth, and New Co-Director Help to Strengthen Bandha Bikes

The vibrant reds of Ugandan soil against the radiant greens of plantain trees captivated me during my last trip to Uganda in late December 2014. It had been almost two years since I last visited the very country that had inspired the creation of Bandha Bikes, and while I had been receiving regular updates on the progress that our on-the-ground partners had made, I was eager to see it for myself and reconnect with many familiar faces in person.

In August of last year, Bandha Bikes sent two team members to Uganda to conduct a bamboo bike building training session with two local builders identified through Skills of Hope Africa as well as visit with project partners at Nansana Children’s Center. The August training demonstrated great growth among the project, but also introduced unforeseeable challenges, particularly around accessing the necessary bike building materials that could not be found in any local Ugandan market. However, during my December visit I had the privilege of reconnecting with both project partners and their organizational leaders — Katongole Issa of Nansana Children’s Center and Amos Bobo of Skills of Hope Africa — and received invaluable feedback on which areas of growth to prioritize since the August visit. Bandha Bike’s building manual, training session, educational tools, and technical assistance protocols for in-country builders will continue to be areas of development throughout 2015.  

In news closer to home, in recent months Bandha Bikes had the incredible opportunity to work closely with David Wendt, founder of Three Penny Bikes, a DC-based bamboo bike creator who has specialized in the art for years. David’s mentorship on the art of bamboo bike building has been an asset to the project and will strengthen our next prototype iteration, which will feature bark cloth built into the frame structure. Bark cloth is a Ugandan-made material, vibrant and beautiful in nature, yet full of strength and character. The bark cloth will aim to add a supplemental layer of durability particularly to the most vulnerable joint areas such as the bottom bracket, as well as continue to support the local Ugandan market and manufacturers.  

And in other exciting news I am thrilled to announce that Bandha Bikes has a new Project Co-Director! Colorado native Rachel Clement is an avid bike commuter who moved to DC to earn her Masters degree from George Washington University in International Development Studies, with a concentration in youth and gender issues in program management. She was a bilingual case worker for an urban at-risk youth mentoring program for two years and worked as a mentor for five years. She has professional experience working for and with youth in Ecuador, Vietnam, Russia, the Philippines, and Costa Rica. Rachel is passionate about the positive outcomes that increased mobility can have on a person's economic potential, educational opportunities, and health, particularly for women and girls. She brings new perspective and vigor to the team — something that we will undoubtedly benefit from in the months to come.

Hatch International’s Bandha Bikes project aims to improve the well-being of impoverished Ugandans by providing rural communities with economically and environmentally sustainable bicycles. For more information on Bandha Bikes or to help support the project, please click here. You can also follow them on Facebook here.

This blog post was written by Song Nguyen, Co-Director of Hatch International’s Bandha Bikes Project.