Pikilily Workshop Update (2 minute read)

Pikilily Workshop Update – 2 minute read

The last few months at Pikilily has seen the project grow in amazing ways.  The finishing touches on the workshop build were completed in March, which coincided with the hiring of our first two female apprentices. Sipe and Beatrice were both keen to become fully fledged motorcycle ambulance drivers and serve their community by riding out to bring rural labouring mothers from their homes for safe birth in hospital.  The journey wasn’t easy though, as neither had ridden a motorcycle before.  Sipe in particular had never even tried out a bicycle, so of course acclimatising to the concept and feeling of balancing on two wheels while also getting to grips with clutch and throttle control was a big challenge for her, but her persistence was really inspiring and I’m happy to share with you that she is now a competent and confident rider.  (She’s pretty chuffed with herself too).

Two wheels haven’t been the only challenge though, as Sipe also initially expressed reticence about wearing trousers to ride in, as she has always worn skirts and felt a little exposed and manly in trousers.  We had originally designed some kitenge (African patterned fabric) dungarees to ride in, but after listening to Sipe’s concern, together we came up with a “skirtaree” instead, which is basically a dungaree with a knee length, wraparound skirt sewn over the top, allowing our riders to maintain decency while also combining that with practicality and safety.  Sipe feels happy wearing them and stays safe riding too!  Though Sipe has already been spending time in the workshop shadowing our mechanics, the next stage of the training will be formal maintenance tuition and first aid, starting very soon.

 On the actual motorcycle ambulance refurbishment, our two mechanics, Juma and Kipara, have been working hard renovating the parts that were sensibly salvageable and making up lists of those items which simply needed to be replaced.  In some instances, we’ve been able to employ individuals from the local community to fabricate new items, such as the canvass hood, pillow and mattress covers, but in other cases its been essential to source new items such as mechanical consumables straight from the eRanger factory.  We’ve been extremely grateful to the team there in South Africa for providing those spare parts to us at zero cost and now, subject to final approval for exemption from the Tanzanian Tax Office, they’ll soon be able to DHL them up here without us incurring a huge import tax bill.  Good progress and subject to the above, we hope to have the bikes ready for the next stage of rider training within just a few weeks!

In addition, we were also invited into the local schools during the half term break to teach the kids how to stay safe while riding a motorcycle as a passenger.  Many of the kids do this every day as an affordable and effective way of commuting to school but of course, this practice isn’t without its hazards.   Naturally, we were delighted to come in and train them in how to spot a safe driver and a roadworthy bike, why helmets matter and how you can behave while riding the bike to make sure you have a safe journey.  The lessons were great fun and best of all, we’ve subsequently had plenty of interest from the parents, who have now heard all about the training from their kids, had no idea that staying safe on a motorcycle wasn’t just “pot luck” and want to have the knowledge too!  We are keen to roll out this schools education programme across Mwanza and plan to start this in the second half of this year.

Otherwise, the other big and interesting development was being asked to travel to Mali in April this year to train mine workers at a big, FTSE 100 gold mine in motorcycle maintenance and road safety. There are roughly 3000 workers at the site with a large proportion riding motorcycles.  Only a handful of these riders actually had licenses or had ever received any kind of formal training before, so it was really interesting for both them and me to have a chance to share the keys of maintenance and road safety with them over the course of a week.  The feedback was overwhelmingly positive so I’m really excited to be heading off to the DR Congo very soon to roll out the training there at another of the company’s mine sites. 

As you can see, there’s plenty keeping us busy with all these activities as well as local groups and businesses also requesting bespoke training for their riders from our base at the workshop.  Its wonderful seeing things taking shape so fast, fuelled by our dynamic and brilliant volunteers, Ellie and Monty, who are with us for the summer.

If you would like to help support our work, you can do so in 3 main ways:

Firstly, we always appreciate donations.  To do that, just click through onto the paypal links on our website

Secondly, stay in touch and help us spread the word by following us on Twitter or Instagram with the handle@pikilily_tz or through Facebook at www.facebook.com/pikilily or reply to this newsletter to find out more about joining our growing band of Pikilily Ambassadors around the world

Thirdly, volunteer to share your skills or experience here at the workshop in Tanzania or even remotely from home.   There’s a wide range of skills and roles we would love help with, so again, just get in touch if you would like to hear more.

Thanks and all the best from Mwanza!

Claire and the team.