Bicycle Donation at the Hideout
A total of 45 bicycles were donated through various donors – including the 20 bicycles from the Tour d’Afrique Foundation and the Indian Adventure riders. It was organized by Hemant Chhabra who runs the Hideout – where we spent our final night on the road before Mumbai.
Hemant first set up the 5 acre Hideout – a farm / guesthouse / cottage / conference centre / eco centre 24 years ago – buying land that had been all but cleared of the teak trees that once filled the area. He set about slowly learning how to regenerate the area, eventually landing on a philosophy of planting fruit trees and letting nature take care of the rest – allowing the birds to do the seeding to grow the forest further, and to only plant minimal amounts of teak and let the birds do the rest. The result is a vibrant mish mash of things – 23 species of banana plants, star fruit, curry leaf, palm trees, beetle nut tree, teak, coconut, pineapple, lime, lemon, and so on.
Through the Hideout he began working with the local villages and trying to learn from them, while also addressing some of their needs. In recent years, along with a journalist from Mumbai named Simona Terron, he started the Bicycle Project. They collect unused, and disguarded bicycles from people in Mumbai and distribute them to school children in and around Vikramgarh.
The children can only keep the bikes as long as there grades are kept up, and the bikes are kept at the schools in the off season, and passed on to other kids over the years. Amazingly Hemant says there has been a 25% increase in school attendance since he began the Bicycle Project – so it is working. Children can get to school with ease, and can ride a bike, and play like children should. Since the project began they have distributed approximately 700 bicycles.
Several of the children came to the Hideout to pick up their bikes – these bikes were newly purchased ones, so they were given to the students who had excelled in certain subjects. We then went to their school where a general assembly was held in the school yard, under the shade of the trees.
A few speeches, and some bicycle tricks by Vinay, and we set out, happy to know that the Tour d’Afrique Foundation may help a child get to school, get an education, and go on to be prosperous as an adult.