|Ghanaian man, church, send hundreds of bicycles to Africa|
Oct. 5, 2005
|Photo courtesy of Abdul Manan
Students in Yendi, Ghana, line up with their new bicycles – and wearing new uniforms bought by Abdul Manan from bicycle sales.
By Joseph F. DiPaolo and Suzy Keenan*
WAYNE, Pa. (UMNS) — Abdul Manan had a dream of collecting bicycles to
take back to his ancestral village of Yendi in Ghana, on the west coast
of Africa, to enable children to attend school.
Yendi’s own school burned down several years ago during
ethnic violence, and the village lacked money to rebuild it. Most
families lacked the resources to acquire bicycles to make the trip to
the nearest functioning school, located eight to 15 miles mile away,
depending on the location of the children’s homes or farms. Children,
many without shoes and shirts, had to walk barefoot as far as 15 miles
A student at Eastern University in Rosemont, Pa., Manan, 30,
shared his dream one day with Stan Petty, a member of Wayne (Pa.) United
Methodist Church. That led to sharing his dream with the entire
congregation during worship one Sunday morning last spring.
“I felt so sad for the children,” Manan said. “I had a dream of
helping my village, and I wasn’t able to do that until I came to the
U.S. I believe this is a divine calling for me to step up and be able to
do this.” Born to Muslim parents, Manan has an extended family that
embraces Islam, Christianity and African faith traditions.
His dream inspired the Wayne congregation — along with Christ United
Methodist Church of Lansdale, Synagogue Mishkan Shalom, community groups
like the King of Prussia Rotary and the Upper Merion Girl Scout Troop
#1326 — to partner with a host of local residents to embrace the
Working with Manan to spearhead the project was David
Broida, Upper Merion’s parks and recreation director, with
whom Manan has worked. Petty led the effort from Wayne Church.
By June, nearly 500 bicycles were collected (most were used, but a
number of new ones were donated by bike shops), as well as nearly $9,000
to cover the costs of shipping, ground transportation, insurance,
storage and distribution.
Petty organized a team to help load 400 bikes onto a container truck.
Additional bikes were broken down into parts so more could be loaded
into the container. “And I took about 30 bikes to a bicycle repair
program in downtown Philadelphia for children who are deprived,” Manan
said. “They learn bike repair and get these lessons for free. When they
graduate, they get a free bike.”
|Photo courtesy of Abdul Manan
For people in many communities in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa, a bicycle is the only alternative to walking.
The container was loaded onto a ship in New York, which left for
Ghana on June 10 and arrived June 30 in the port city of Tema. Manan
flew to Ghana to meet the shipment and spent more than a month there
distributing the bikes to the neediest children.
“The problem goes way beyond basic transportation,” he said. “I felt
so sad. Why would I give a kid a bike when he doesn’t even have shoes or
a shirt? I would rather sell some bikes and provide children with
school uniforms and shoes.” He sold about 60 of the bikes to purchase
“The children did not believe they could ever afford to own a bicycle
in their lifetime,” he said. “They were resigned that this is their
life and it could not get better. Now I can really encourage little
students to become responsible. With education, they could be better
informed and their life could be better.”
His journey became an adventure, as he chased down people who stole
bikes (he recovered most of them), worked through tangled bureaucracies
and was nearly overwhelmed with the press of children who wanted a bike
so they could once again attend school. He donated five bikes to a local
police station that had no other means of transportation, and the
police then provided him with protection and help. He also gave five
bikes to a local Methodist church that helped him.
“I helped the people of Yendi to realize that they are being loved
and cherished many miles away from the continent of Africa by the people
of the United States, and to understand that the U.S. stands not just
for war (in Iraq) but for peace.”
Manan said part of his calling is to help people in the United States
understand and appreciate how much they have and how important it is to
share that abundance with others in need.
Some 350 children in Ghana now have a new opportunity to learn and
build a future, but Manan is not finished. He has a new dream of helping
Yendi rebuild its local school, and he hopes to return there for the
grand opening next summer. He plans to partner with the local Methodist
church in Yendi to ensure that funds and resources are used as intended.
Churches or people interested in supporting Manan’s dream for the
children of Ghana can call Wayne United Methodist Church at (610)
688-5650 for information.
*DiPaolo is pastor of Wayne (Pa.) United Methodist Church. Keenan is
director of communications for the United Methodist Church’s Eastern
Pennsylvania Annual Conference.
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