Project Rwanda is a social initiative that was launched by the famous US-based bicycle fabricator, designer, frame builder and category 1 racer Tom Ritchey, after he visited the country in the year 2005. The project resulted from his sheer passion and love for cycling, inspirational stories of Rwandan people and the overall natural beauty of Rwanda. Tom’s trip to Rwanda brought him the realization that he can use bicycle as an important tool in the reconstruction of the country and help them build their national pride by assisting them in tackling of various local issues.
Project Rwanda comprises of like-minded members who donate their valuable energy and time for the betterment of Rwanda. The donations made to the project are primarily utilized for supporting actual projects. It is basically a volunteer-driven and goodwill organization based out of the United States.
Project Rwanda has always been committed to improvement of the economic conditions of Rwandan nationals via all sorts of initiatives that have their basis in bicycle as an important social tool and a significant symbol of hope. Their goal is using bikes for helping boost Rwandan economy, apart from rebranding Rwanda as one of the optimum destinations for tourism and business purposes.
Towards this end, Project Rwanda contributes to the Rwandan people via different project categories. Let’s go into them briefly:
Wooden Bike Classic - Building awareness about Rwanda
Wooden Bike Classic is an annual bike festival aimed at creating awareness about Rwanda, the country per se and its people, for tourism purposes and for making it an ideal cycling destination. This is achieved via development of eco-tourism industry in Rwanda. Cyclists from US, Europe and Africa participate in this multi-day annual event.
Special bike designs
Another important initiative undertaken by Project Rwanda is designing and development of special use bikes, for addressing the specific needs of Rwandan people. It collaborates with foreign vendors for cost-effective manufacturing of these bikes, and then for their export to Rwanda. Project Rwanda functions as an advisor, designer, consultant and facilitator in the entire project. The task of funding, delivery and distribution of bikes is handled by collaborating agencies. The first such undertaking handled by Project Rwanda involved production of 2000 special hauling long bikes that were eventually used by coffee farmers for quickly hauling their crops to the washing stations collection points, thereby increasing their earnings.
Distribution of special bikes
The above-mentioned special bikes are effectively distributed to needy organizations. It is done through a micro-financing scheme wherein the bikes are provided at a subsidized cost and are funded via a micro-financing facility. Once established, this facility was planned to be extended to other non-African and African developing nations too. As per estimates, there is a demand of hundreds of millions of such special bikes throughout the world, as they provide an environment-friendly, practical and affordable solution for local transportation problems.
Team Rwanda – National Pride
The Team Rwanda Project brought coaching and organization facilities to Rwandan athletes who wished to ride for themselves and their country, in order to create awareness about their nation. Team Rwanda eventually emerged as the first ever cycling team to have come out of the country. The cyclists belonging to Team Rwanda competed with professional cyclists from all parts of the world in reputed tours like Tour of Ireland and more.