As a lover and rider of bicycles, A. Bruce Crawley wanted to find a way to combine his love for the mode of transportation with another passion of his: philanthropy.
Crawley, a 1983 master’s of journalism alumnus, is the chairman president of the African Bicycle Contribution Foundation, a Philadelphia nonprofit that raises money to distribute bikes to students, farmers and health workers in Ghana who are in need of transportation. The organization collaborates with nonprofits and businesses in Ghana — like the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, which creates employment opportunities for people in Ghana to build bikes made from bamboo.
Last month, Bernice Dapaah, executive director of the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, visited Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C. to raise money for purchasing bikes alongside ABCF.
Crawley said he has always felt that his civic obligation was to give back to society.
When Crawley and other ABCF members were interested in starting a bike nonprofit in 2016, they thought about people’s needs in Africa.
“We found out that there is a great need in Africa, especially in rural parts of Africa, among students and farmers and healthcare workers to get access to motor transportation in the absence of motorized vehicles,” said Crawley, who is originally from North Central Philadelphia.
After a period of research, ABCF selected Ghana as its country of focus. Crawley said he was inspired to choose Ghana after researching on Ancestry.com and realizing many African-Americans have ties to West African countries like Ghana. Crawley added that he was also inspired by the fact that the first democratically elected president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, went to Lincoln University in Chester County and the University of Pennsylvania.
Dapaah, who is from Ghana, said she started her business wanting to target a number of issues in the country, like unemployment, poverty and climate change.
“I got to know that there was abundant bamboo in Ghana and due to the unemployment rate in our country, we decided to see how best we can use this natural resource and create work out of it,” Dapaah said.
Dapaah started her business eight years ago and has created employment opportunities for more than 50 people by establishing bamboo plantations. The company also provides people in Ghana with a mode of transportation for their commutes to work.
Dapaah was named an ambassador of the World Bamboo Organization — which promotes the use of bamboo for environmental and economical purposes — and she also is on the advisory board of World Intellectual Property Organization Green, an online database and network that brings people who work in green technology together.
“We were impressed and we just called her up and said, ‘We want work with you and buy your bikes,’” Crawley said. “We also wanted to have her here because we’re a new foundation, only about a year or so old, and people say that it takes about two years before you can raise money and do anything of significance, but we wanted to do a jump start to build awareness and raise money.”
Crawley believes there’s little difference between the issues faced by West African and United States children, who all need food, shelter and a decent education. He thinks there should be a collaboration between these two parts of the world to fix some of these issues.
In Ghana, ABCF also partners with the Bright Generation Community Foundation, which is a human rights organization focused on education, and the U.S./Ghana Chamber of Commerce.
“What we’re trying to do is set up channels of communication facilitated by classroom technology in Philadelphia schools, and classrooms in cities in Africa where the kids can talk to each other about these issues and share their own experiences about what they need to do to go forward,” Crawley said.
He has not been in contact with the Philadelphia School District yet, but has had conversations with members of Congress about the feasibility of this project.
Crawley and Dapaah hope to export bikes from Ghana to the U.S., with Philadelphia as a port of entry. They want to create maintenance jobs for young people in Philadelphia and are in the process of getting this approved by the Mayor’s Office.
“The more we do this, the more you’ll see that it doesn’t stop with the manufacture and distribution of bikes,” Crawley said. “There are things that we’re pushing that are academically and economically oriented around getting people to more entrepreneurial pursuits.”