The Old Stone Mill Center in Adams is a Zero Waste Maker Space. Most of the hundreds of bikes in the building have been rescued from landfill along with other surplus materials from local industry. Now 26 of those bikes are cleaned up and being sent to The Republic of Congo this Sunday.
This story began when Great Barrington resident Pauline Dongala visited the Old Stone Mill Center to pick up linen discards collected there. Sheets, hospital johnnies and scrubs were loaded in her car bound for a rural hospital in her mother country.
During Pauline’s tour of the mill she asked about purchasing children’s bicycles for her container. Mike Augspurger, a long time bicycle engineer/ bike builder and owner of the Mill responded by offering them for free as there is such a surplus here. When she saw a rack on a bike she said in her country it would be used to carry people. She told of how much difference bicycles can make in villages like hers. The few bikes available in the region are used to carry goods, water, and even extra riders.
This captured the imagination of Augspurger. He has since made sturdy plywood decks for each bike bound for The Congo even the smallest 16” wheeled kids bikes! The decks are welded to the frame and made from reused bicycle parts. Each deck will hold hundreds of pounds of goods or people. Bikes are rare and a status symbol in The Congo. For children to have a bike their size is unheard of. Pauline expressed, “Supplying bikes for children will be a revolutionary act.”
Bikes in this shared shipping container will go to 3 villages, Bikie, Moukassi, and Bidoua.
Other materials from The Old Stone Mill Center’s Zero Waste inventory will also be making the voyage:
– Seed/Feed and Brew bags in rolls of 25 are surplus here, but valuable there selling for as much as $5 apiece in the local market. They are used if available to carry cassava, charcoal and produce to market often by bicycle.
– Bicycle inner tubes with punctures will be sent and used there to strap water and crops on a bike, like a bungie cord.
– Irrigation Drip tape from our farm fields
The container should arrive at port in 4-6 weeks and the bikes will hopefully be in the villages by mid July. Mike and all the volunteers who have worked on the project are eagerly awaiting the first photo of Congolese children on one of the bikes riding to their new primary school!
The Old Stone Mill Center plans to continue the project. Volunteer bike mechanics and those who want to learn are welcome to contact us. More information about the project or to donate funds for bike parts is available online at www.oldstonemillcenter.org.
Pauline Dongala is fundraising to build a water well for the primary school, the first water well in the village. Donations may be made at her GoFundMe page for the project at tinyurl.com/bikiewaterwell.