THE 2016 REPORT
September 6, 2016
303 BIKES SHIPPED TO GAMBIA!
We've been shipping bikes from Minnesota to Africa for years, but not until 2016 did we finally figure out how to get a container to Burning Man so that we could send bikes straight from Black Rock City to the Serekunda Market in West Africa.
We parked our trailers at 5:30 and L and put up a signs that said "BIKE DROP" and "BIKES FOR AFRICA." Even then we didn't quite know if it would work.
We waited patiently for Burning Man week to end. At first there was only a trickle of bicycle donations as people stopped on their way out of town. But after days of waiting nervously (and months of work), the trickle became a torrent and before Burning Man ended, we had a full container with 303 bikes loaded inside.
For an experiment, Stars And Bikes' first bike drop was a wild success. We were able to fill the entire shipping container with bikes. We were also able to be selective with these bikes, such that the bikes we sent are PERFECT for the community receiving them in The Gambia. These left Burning Man and went straight to port. They are on the ocean at this very moment! (Takes 2-3 months.)
Just so you know, bicycles are changing lives. Facts from World Bicycle Relief:
- A bicycle turns a two hour walk into a 30 minute errand.
- Bicycles improve classroom attendance by 28%.
- Student performance improves by as much as 59% when a child has a bicycle.
World Bicycle Relief
Getting our first shipping container to Burning Man almost didn't happen. After weeks of logistics planning with our shipper we were still working on it on THURSDAY during Burning Man. We didn't realize that the shipper required full payment in advance. No credit cards. No PayPal. Wire transfer only.
We spent most of Thursday wandering around Black Rock City looking for a bank. Just kidding. None of us had left anyone at home that could access our bank accounts and complete a wire transfer. I sent one last impassioned email to our shippers pleading with them to send the container first thing Friday morning. And they did! Thank you for trusting me, Sarah.
The wire transfer was successfully completed the next day.
September 16, 2016
More than 100 bikes have been fixed up for renting out for Burning Man 2017. This means we will have the funds to run Stars And Bikes again in 2017! Hopefully, with some good planning, we will be launching TWO containers of bicycles from Black Rock City next year.
December 8, 2016
The bikes have arrived in Banjul, Gambia and the staff at the bike shop are very excited about Burning Man’s bikes. This is possibly the best load of bikes we have ever been able to send. Thank you, Black Rock City!
December 21, 2016
DEVELOPING: The Gambia is a tiny country on the west coast of Africa. Apart from 30 miles of coastline, Gambia is entirely surrounded by Senegal. As a former colony of Great Britain, Gambia’s national language is English. Having only achieved independence in 1965 and having had only two presidents since then, the Gambia is still a young democracy.
The sitting president, Yahya Jammeh took power in a coup in 1994, but was defeated in a December 1 election by Adama Barrow. On December 9, Jammeh declared the elections void and is refusing to give up power. The fate of this peaceful nation, called The Smiling Coast, is now very much in question as Jammeh has begun preparing to use the military to hold his office.
A power struggle now would be very hard on The Gambia's 1.8 million people, a third of whom survive on less than $1.25 per day.
We are figuratively watching all of this develop from the inside of a tiny bike shop in the Serekunda Market. Camouflage netting, sandbags, and machine guns are being installed in the streets of the capital, Banjul, but for the most part, life goes on as usual. The guys are excited about the bikes from Burning Man. Work has begun and customers are buying.
But we are reading the news and checking in with our friends as often as they can get to an internet cafe. Yahya Jammeh has much to lose on January 19, Inauguration Day. His administration has been accused of scores of political killings during his 22 years in power and it is widely accepted that his personal net worth of approximately $2 billion has been pilfered from the national coffers.
Adama Barrow's incoming administration has promised an investigation into Jammeh's crimes and it is feared that pressing for Jammeh's prosecution in the pursuit of well deserved justice will force him into a corner. It seems clear that Jammeh is willing to wage war rather than face potential imprisonment.
While Jammeh is receiving pressure from all sides (neighbor nations, Gambian unions and trade associations), the military seems committed to him for the present.
Human Rights Watch
January 15, 2017
The bike shop is closed.
Tens of thousands of tourists and Gambians have fled the country as Jammeh has dug in his heels. The West African Union, led by Senegal, is promising to remove Jammeh by force if he does not relinquish the presidency on inauguration day on Thursday. Newly elected Adama Barrow is planning to take the oath of office from Gambia's embassy in Dakar.
For fear of violence and to protect the shop staff, the decision was made to close the shop in Banjul and wait things out.
January 19, 2017
Yahya Jammeh still clings to power. Adama Barrow has taken the oath of office during a ceremony in Dakar. Troops from Senegal and a smattering of nearby nations have amassed a force of 7,000 on Gambia's borders.
January 21, 2017
Yahya Jammeh has flown into exile!
Eleventh (and twelfth) hour negotiations have ended the power standoff between Gambia's newly elected president and the defeated president. Jammeh was swept off to exile from the Banjul airport. Barrow is expected to make his triumphant return to the Smiling Coast shortly.
The bike shop is open!
Stars And Bikes and Re-Cycle, Inc share no official affiliations with Burning Man, Black Rock City, LLC, or the US Military (but we do appreciate journalistc integrity).