Could you feed 175 children 3 times a week?
You might have heard us say a bicycle is more than just a bicycle, but rarely has it been more true than for Moses Musukubili, a health worker and bike shop manager from Namibia’s Zambezi region. For Moses and the children in his care, bikes and bicycle maintenance mean food and a path to a better life.
Managing the Hard Working Men’s bicycle shop on the outskirts of Katima Mulilo, Moses is a member of Catholic AIDS Action (CAA), an organisation that coordinates a growing network of health workers throughout the country. One of our partners, BEN Namibia, work with CAA to establish bike social enterprises, resulting in jobs for health volunteers and valuable income, which supports their HIV work. We’ve been sending bikes to these projects since 2007.
For most of us, Namibia is just another name on a map in the vastness of Africa, but for Moses it’s a place that counts almost 160,000 orphans and vulnerable children, representing a staggering 30% of all Namibian children under eighteen.
In the past 10 years Namibia has experienced sustained economic growth, but this hasn't benefitted everyone. Income inequality is still a huge problem and despite the decline of underweight children, malnutrition is widespread. Malnutrition ranges from the visible - stunting (too short for age) and wasting (too thin from height), to the invisible - the deficiency in vital nutrients such as vitamin A, iron, folic acid and Iodine. Moses knows first-hand that malnutrition has serious implications for both mental and physical development. With the number of orphans growing daily as their parents succumb to HIV, the need for support is unrelenting.
Trained CAA volunteers offer love, emotional, practical and educational support to over 18,000 registered children. For the majority, that love starts with nourishment. Moses had been acutely aware that a large number of children in his local community were malnourished, some of them severely so. In order to help, he began the process of registering the names of all the orphans and vulnerable children. The next step was to approach the ministries of health, education, and gender equality to ensure that the children were registered for identity documents, for monitoring of critical health indicators, and importantly to receive government benefits.
With strict monitoring of the children, Moses soon saw the results as they began to put on weight, return to health and improve in their school performance.
As if 175 mouths to feed is not enough work for one man, Moses’ shop also supports other health workers and outreach volunteers by providing affordable bicycles, bike maintenance, and servicing bicycles in his community.
He’s now growing a customer base in neighbouring Zambia, where quality bicycles are in high demand - so he can feed even more. For him and the children in his care, bikes and bicycle maintenance mean food, food means health, better grades at school and brighter future.