Royal Mail employee Melvyn Hodgetts is rescuing postmen's bikes from the scrapheap to give them a new lease of life in Africa.


Published September 17, 2007 by The Oxford Mail
By Andrew Ffrench

Royal Mail employee Melvyn Hodgetts is rescuing postmen's bikes from the scrapheap to give them a new lease of life in Africa.

The firm has sent its 10,000th bicycle to Ghana in a recycling programme that sends former delivery bikes and spares from the UK.

Following pressure from employees, Royal Mail devised the policy to help the charity ReCycle.

Bikes are sent to projects in Ghana, Liberia, Uganda, Namibia and South Africa so that local people can "cycle themselves out of poverty".

Mr Hodgetts, 51, from Witney, a safety development manager at Royal Mail, travelled to Ghana in July with the latest shipment.

He said: "I saw that our bikes make a tremendous difference in Ghana, helping people earn a living, getting children to school, and providing healthcare.

"Outside the towns, transport is expensive or non-existent, so people are faced with very long journeys by foot.

"To get a bicycle, people usually start by attending a bicycle maintenance scheme run by one of ReCycle's local partners, then buy a bike using an interest-free credit plan.

"Sometimes kids have to walk about 12 miles to school, so having a bike can make a big difference. I plan to go back to Patriensa in Ghana next year to teach the residents how to maintain the bikes them- selves."

Since the scheme began in 1997, Royal Mail bicycles have made a big difference to people's lives in countries where bicycles are an affordable means of transport.

The bicycles are highly prized by their new owners, and in Ghana are bought for the equivalent of one month's wages – about £20.

The latest shipment of 400 bicycles arrived in Ghana's capital, Accra, after a three-week sea voyage by container ship.

A family bicycle particularly benefits women, who may make multiple journeys to fetch water and food every day.

Gertrude Mansah, the principal of the Agogo Ladies Training College, runs the Cycling out of Poverty scheme.

This provides women with bicycles so they can transport food from town to their villages, and bring farm produce to market to sell.

Thirty-eight local women are currently receiving bicycle maintenance training before buying a Royal Mail bicycle at a reduced rate.

Ms Mansah said: "I would really like to thank Royal Mail for helping me make such a difference.

"These bicycles really do help people help themselves."

Mr Hodgetts added: "Royal Mail bikes are popular because they have a sturdy frame with a strong tray for carrying mail on the front.

"It is fascinating how people use them for carrying everything from beer crates to furniture and even other people – in fact anything but post."