Teaching a Man to Fix a Bike

Vaughn Spethmann and his business partner Dustin McBride aren’t just thinking about helping others, they’re living it.

The pair started up the non-profit group Acirfa (Africa spelled backwards) and an offshoot called Zambikes.

It’s not just a clever name. They are committed to turning Africa around one bike at a time. So much so that Spethmann and McBride left their home towns of Ranch Penasquitos and Del Mar, respectively, and moved to Zambia to start up the non-profit organization.

In a Skype shot from Africa Wednesday, Spethmann called it a “bicycle social enterprise organization.”

In a country where unemployment ranges from 50 to 80 percent and the average income is under $2 a day, Acirfa has trained more than 30 bicycle mechanics and employs 14 men to assemble their bikes.

The organization provides residents not only the training on how to fix the bikes but also tools to do the job and a certificate that they can hang and announce their business.

Zambikes distributes bicycles to social workers, educators, pastors, home based care workers, medical workers in Zambia.

“It's exciting because something as simple as a bike could really make a difference and really change lives,” said Spethmann.

How can a simple bicycle change a life? According to Spethmann, a medical worker can see 3 to 4 times the number patients in a day using a bicycle versus walking to their appointments.

Spethmann said the reaction in Zambia has been mixed. "You'd think they would be so excited but what ends up happening is that it's a different type of bike," he said. "Most of the bicycles here right now are low-quality that literally fall apart in 60 days."

“What we've done is tried to get a bike made in Zambia, by Zambians for the country’s rough conditions,” said Spethmann.

He and McBride live in Zambia and return occasionally on fundraising trips. One of the hardest things about working in Africa is missing family, Spethmann said. Especially his nephew in the states.

"We couldn't do it without the support of all the people back in the states," he said. "Both places have so much to offer each other."

People in the states can get involved by organizing biking events in their communities. Information on how you can give to the effort can be found on the group's website.

You can watch the interview with Spethmann Wednesday on SD News Now. The show airs on NBC 7/39 at 4 p.m. 

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