Running the Way of the Cross

The inaugural Way of the Cross trail race was held on 12 August 2017 at the Beehive Centre for Social Enterprise as part of the annual open day celebrations.

The race started at the Beehive Campus in the Chilomoni suburb of Blantyre, Malawi and followed the iconic trail up the Michiru Mountain to the Cross which sits on the skyline ridge. This trail attracts Catholics and all those seeking a meditative experience who make the journey to the  Cross passing the 12 Stations of the Cross.

The idea was to offer Malawians an opportunity to complete in a running event as well as to promote the great work being undertaken at the Beehive Centre for Social Enterprise.

A further ambition was to promote the environmental care of the mountain which has seen  years of indiscriminate tree felling. Race entry was mk100 which purchased a  tree seedling to be planted on the mountainside as part of the forestry recovery programme.

The race route is a challenging 6km rocky trail that initially traverses the upper reaches of Chilomoni township before climbing steeply onto  the switchback  track to the summit ridge 300m above Chilomoni before plunging back down to the finish.

70 excited runners of all abilities assembled for this first race. Miss Blantyre started the race with the ladies and Juniors starting 3 minutes before the men. The race with a first prize of a bicycle was hotly contested with an initial group of 5 runners. The winner Manson Bambara took 27.5 minutes. The Madala category (over 40 years) was won by Tim, Mr Woza Woza, a spicy sauce maker, The ladies by Thewonge Geatha

The Deputy Mayor for Blantyre Mr Joseph Makwinja presented the prizes  kindly donated by local building merchants Deekay Suppliers, Bella hair products, Eversharp pens and Exide batteries.

This race proved the enthusiasm that Malawians have  to participate in competitive sport and running in particular. Beehive hope to ensure that this event becomes an annual event and that racing the “Way of the Cross” becomes a must do event for local residents along with visitors to Malawi.

Blog by Graham Denny volunteer Enterprise Manager

Malawi Mountains By Bike

 

Round 5 of the Malawia Winter Mountain Bike Series.

Awareness of mountain bike in Malawi is growing rapidly with much of the interest being driven by the inaugural 2017 Winter Mountain Bike Series. Each event had offered a unique challenge and a different perspective of the variety of mountain biking available in Malawi. Round 5 was held on the Zomba Plateau starting at the Ku Chawe, Sunbird Hotel. The design of the course provided an excellent conclusion to the season. The race attracted a record entry of 76 riders many of whom were local riders which is particularly important for the future growth of mountain biking. Strong team entries from Africycle and Beebikes added greatly to the field and will hopefully provide the catalyst to encourage even larger fields in future.

Team Beebikes with our newest volunteer Steve Rowley

The race format again offered a short (25km) and long (35km) route option. Organiser Paul Kennedy flagged the field away at 9am with an initial blast down a bumpy track before crossing the dam wall. Front riders had to hold their nerve and their line to ensure all riders stayed on track, fortunately with no crashes. A few strenuous climbs, minor mechanical mishaps and a puncture (Vasu) soon had the field spread out shortly before the long and short routes split up.

The riders choosing the longer route were treated to a seemingly interminable climb up to the plateau at about 2000m above sea level. This section included a few technically rocky sections for which only the most committed were able to stay in the saddle. By this stage a few riders were no doubt wishing they had opted for the shorter route. Rule 5 however prevailed (see www.velomati). Once onto the plateau the route levelled out before riders were rewarded with snaking single track and bone shaking descents – mountain biking of the highest order. Paul’s choice of route ensured the race remained a challenge to the end with a tricky decent and very steep climb to the finish.

Although the Africycles team managed to secure the first 2 places in the men short course race, Frankie and Grecian both rookie riders from Team Beehive were not far behind in 3rd and 4th place. In the women’s race 15 year old Chantel from Team Beebikes amazed everybody by racing to victory in the ladies’ short course event. Special mention must be made to the 8 novice rider from Team Beebikes for whom this was their first organised mountain bike event of any kind. All of whom not only finished but avoiding crashes and acquitting themselves with cool composure. Overall Team Beebikes had 12 finishers including Vince Owen and newly arrived Steve Rowley. 

Chantel the winner from team Beebikes!

A big thanks must go to the sponsors HTD with whom the series would not happen and to the great excitement of those who remained for the prize giving when it was announced the sponsorship would continue for a further year.

Finally well done Paul and the organising committee. Chapeau!

Blog by Graham Denny volunteer Enterprise Manager

A Day in the Life of BeeBikes 

Malawi – A Day in the Life of BeeBikes 

Beebikes is one of 10 enterprises in the Beehive Centre for Social Enterprise located in Chilomoni, Blantyre, Malawi. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world but ranks near the top of friendliest nations. The opportunity to work with the guys at Beebikes is a rare privilege.

Beebikes refurbish the complete range of bicycles which are collected in the UK and sent via container to Blantyre. The arrival of a container with a selection of 300plus bikes is cause for significant excitement to the residents of Blantyre.

The cycling stock is stored in containers in readiness for repair and sale. Customers will generally select a bike knowing that it may require a few days to fettle before being ridden away. Bikes may need to be combined to bring to full roadworthiness. Access to spares is a constant battle for most Malawian riders. An increased supply is a matter that needs to be urgently addressed.  Beebikes is staffed by 5 mechanics, Brasil, Clement, Gift, Massa and Mike, managed by Boniface. A happy lot, they are working with limited resources but a resourcefulness that keep the wheels turning. Work commences at 7.30am. Containers are opened up and a display stock is lined up to attract passing custom.

Customers arrive throughout the day and they have an interesting bike selection criteria, such as saddle width or frame colour. In addition to the desperate shortage of spares, tools are also in limited supply and as cycling evolves towards increasing complex braking, gearing and suspension systems the mechanics are forced into more imaginative use of tools and spares. It is great to see what innovation arises from necessity.

Gates are closed for an hour at 12noon on hearing the St James church bell toll. Lunch is usually a plate of Nsima, the Malawi staple, although supplemented from time to time with cassava, samosas or roasted grass hoppers if in season.

A result of the need to combine bikes is that a mountainous stock of cycle parts soon accumulates and in a country like Malawi where every object is precious, nothing is thrown away and the stock rapidly overwhelms the available storage. It is then time for the exceptionally popular ‘Bits and Pieces’ sale. News via word of mouth, posters and facebook, spreads rapidly throughout the Chilomoni Township and into nearby Blantyre, sometimes even as far afield as Mozambique such is the demand for bargain spares. Home mechanics trawl the stock selecting many an item that would be totally discarded by a western cyclist. Recycling to cycle, something the western world sould learn a lot from. Within a few days delighted customers can be seen riding bikes that only recently had been abandoned as scrap.

  Malawi is a cash only economy and Beebikes is no exception. The largest denomination note in Malawi is 2000 kwacha ($3) and as bikes range in price between 50 000k and 100 000k, prospective customers must carry a huge wedge of notes to secure their purchase. (Imagine buying a car). A far larger issue is the general level of poverty in Malawi which holds back many Malawians from purchasing a bike.

Alex Namagonya uses his Beebikes Mailstar bike to collect oil and eggs in bulk at Blantyre market to sell in Chilomoni.

The mainstay of cycling in Malawi is its use as a means of transport. Taxi fares are relatively expensive and access to bikes makes an enormous difference to commuters and small business enterprises. At the most basic the bike operates as a glorified wheel barrow with downhill freewheeling potential. Most common charcoal sellers pushing up to 4 enormous bags of charcoal on one bike. Also around markets a common site is the taxi bike.

A strong cycling culture and interest in cycling is growing, starting with children who share the universal desire of freedom on their very own bike to adults who are beginning to recognize cycling as a desirable fitness pursuit. As more people start to ride, cycling can only grow in popularity. In addition many of the resident internationals have begun to recognize the massive off road cycling potential of Malawi. A successful national winter mountain bike series has recently started, offering superb routes through many of Malawi’s most dramatic landscapes. (www.wsmtb.org)

The demand for organizations like Beebikes to service the increasing demand for bikes in Malawi is certain to grow.

Graham and Caroline Denny July 2017

 

 

We’re Off…

It’s finally happening, we’re moving to our forever home! Here’s our new address for all post and visitors:

Krizevac Project
Atlas Works
Paragon Road
Longton
Stoke-on-Trent
ST3 1NR
 
Watch this space for lovely photos when we’re all settled in.
 
Grateful thanks to Barratts for the generous donation of free warehouse space over the past four years, you’ve been amazing!

Permission to Build!

Great news from the busy Beehive Construction Team, we have just received planning permission to add to the Beehive Campus with a brand new two floor building.

Some of the Beehive team gather on the beautiful Beehive Campus

Some of the Beehive team gather on the beautiful Beehive Campus

For the past year the building team have been kept busy with completion of the football pitch, vital maintenance works across Chilomoni and converting containers for temporary facilities. But now construction work can begin again in earnest with the start of the Beetech Data Building.

When completed the building will house the latest Beehive enterprise; Beetech will provide vital employment for many graduating students from JPII, they will be taking on contracts to process data for corporations, not only from within Malawi but from around the world.

Head of Design and Construction, volunteer Donn Ponnighaus

Head of Design and Construction, volunteer Donn Ponnighaus

The construction team is headed by our amazing volunteer Donn Ponnighaus an Irish/ German architect born in Malawi! He’s been working with us as a volunteer for two years and cannot wait to get stuck in with this major building project. He’ll be overseeing the construction team to see his eco-friendly block designed building through to completion at the end of 2017.

 

 

 

What a year!

Huge apologies to everyone who follows this blog, you may have noticed our lack of blogging. We have no excuse other than we’ve just been too busy doing things to write about them. So here is a quick round up of our main activities over the last year and what a year we’ve had!

Krizevac in the UK

We continue to exist to supply all of the enterprises in Malawi with crucial equipment and people needed to help Beehive in Chilomoni to thrive. But this year we’ve had a huge focus on increasing our financial sustainability by generating all of our own funds to pay for the shipping. So it’s been the year of Elephant Bike.

We started this, our first UK enterprise back in 2015, but throughout 2016 these amazing bikes have dominated our work. We’re renovating and selling a limited edition of 5000 of the beautiful and robust Royal Mail Mailstar bikes to sell here in the UK. Each one sold, pays for another to go to Malawi. The ones we send to Malawi are not renovated; they are still fully refurbished by the Chilomoni workshops, so there are still plenty of employment opportunities for the trained bike mechanics in Malawi. So far we’ve sold around 700 bikes which has generated a significant amount of income- in fact in 2016 we’ve managed to ship over 1000 bikes, several hundred sewing machines and thousands of books… all funded by the Elephant Bike sales.

misty bike

Our UK team has grown to undertake all of this work. We’ve been joined by Mark Vyner, Workshop Manager and Kacey Ralph, Workshop Assistant, who along with Terry, make sure each and every Elephant Bike arrives to our customers in tip-top condition. We continue to work with Swinfin Hall Youth Offenders Institute who help the Elephant Bike project by stripping down all of the bikes before the professional re-build.

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Terry, George and Mark in costume for a vintage bike show!

Our merry gang of volunteers has grown too, this year we’ve been joined by Jerry, Brendan, Eileen, James and Ben who all give regular time to help us out. They join all of our “old” (in service longevity, not years!) volunteers who pack books, sell books, mend bikes, keep us tidy and drive around the UK… we couldn’t function without the hundreds of donated hours we’re given and we’re eternally grateful to all.

We continue to appeal for bikes, books and sewing machines to send to Malawi (a small proportion is sold here in the UK, again to help raise funds). We’re grateful that the donations are still arriving with us, even though we cannot offer a collection service anymore. This year we’ve received over 1000 bikes, around 150 sewing machines and countless books. There are too many names to mention here, but we’d love to thank the following extra special partners for their ongoing support; Halfords, Workaid, Recycle, Preloved, Stoke Police and Staffordshire Moorland Soroptimists.

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Of course the most significant event of this year actually happened on Christmas Eve last year, with the safe arrival of beautiful Betsy Kasiya to proud new parents Zoe and Yohane. While we miss Zoe hugely, we’re all very glad that she’s taken this time to be at home with her lovely new daughter. Apologies to all who have noticed our lack of organisation without Zoe here to keep us in shape! She will be back and organising us all again very soon, thank goodness:-)

Krizevac in Malawi

While things have been buzzing in the UK, Beehive Centre for Social Enterprise has always been buzzing and it continues to thrive.

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The creation of meaningful employment, family support, education and early years care is more important in Malawi now than ever before. The national economic situation has worsened, the cost of living is rising and life for many is tougher than it has been for years.

Beehive continues to employ over 380 permanent staff and they are working harder than ever to ensure the enterprises thrive. One of the most significant developments is the expansion of Torrent Plant Hire into Mozambique. The management team spotted opportunities to increase revenue by expanding the rental service over the border where construction projects are more buoyant. This means that Beehive continues to stand on its own two feet financially; other than provision of resources from the UK, Beehive continues to generate all of its own funding.

Another Malawi side success story is the growth of the John Paul II Leadership and IT Institute which has helped over 400 young Malawians to access top quality IT training this year. Around 60 of these students are now living in new hostel facilities which helps to reduce transport and living costs, making a valuable education more accessible. Some of the students have found employment within Beehive’s newest enterprise. This latest business offers data processing services to Malawian and international organisations. It’s so promising that Beehive are constructing a whole new building to house the enterprise. Designs for the new building are soon to be submitted for planning and the construction team are champing at the bit to begin building again!

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Beebikes, Books and Tailoring all continue to thrive. It’s now impossible to go anywhere in Blantyre without seeing red Royal Mail bikes everywhere!

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The ultimate beneficiaries of all this enterprise continue to be the children and families who receive early years care, primary education and family support from Mother Teresa Children’s Centre. The team work so hard to provide top quality care to the hundreds of children they support.  This year has been busy for MTCC as the centre is supporting a brand new vital feeding programme. Seibo is a Japanese charity, being managed by Declan Somers (our former Country Director). Seibo aims to feed every hungry child in the world a meal every day when they are at school. The feeding is starting in nurseries in Chilomoni, and we’re pleased as punch that MTCC has been able to help. Times are hard in Malawi, with two years of bad harvests there is real danger of people going hungry. Feeding children at school or nursery reaches the poorest of the poor and ensures children get an education as well as a meal.

Queuing for phala at nursery

Queuing for phala at nursery

Another exciting development  for MTCC came after we bid a fond farewell to Debbie Lawson, our longest standing volunteer Centre Manager. As her time in Malawi came to an end, she handed the leadership to Vasco Pafupi who has been with MTCC since the very beginning as a Care Giver. Vasco is supported by Olive Sekeni as Day care Manager. This move to Malawian management is truly exciting and reflects how hard the team have been working.

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Vasco and Olive have been joined by two new UK Trainers/ Consultants: Cindy Raymond is spending two years at the Children’s Centre to deliver Management and Leadership training as well as recruiting and training the next cohort of Care Givers. Laura Russell also joined the team as a Social Work Consultant. Laura, along with her husband Mark who is helping the finance team at Beehive, have moved to Malawi as their forever home , we’re really pleased they’ve chosen to work at Beehive. They join Donn our Architect, Julie our Country Director and Jo who looks after Seibo to make up our team of Malawi volunteers.

I should quickly mention that in March this year on a trip to Malawi,we were joined by Ollie from Hewitt and Walker, the amazingly talented film maker  who made films for us in 2015. He shot fantastic footage for some lovely new short films showing more about life and work in Chilomoni… so keep an eye out on our Twitter and Facebook feeds as well as the movie page on this website for some cracking new films! Thanks as ever to Ollie, Brian, Sue and this time Charlotte too, for all your help and hard work.

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There’s probably much more news than that to share, but if you’ve managed to read this far… well done! You can count yourself as a genuine Krizevac fan;-) We’ll try to do shorter and more frequent updates from now on… but at least now you know we’re still here, still busy and still needing your support as much as ever, thank you!

 

 

A Busman’s Holiday

Or should that be “bikeman’s holiday”!?

It’s been a hectic year here at Krizevac, launching the Elephant Bike enterprise has meant we’ve all been busy busy, so I was very much looking forward to my recent two week break. In planning a camping and caravanning holiday for myself and my husband, I realised that we really needed to take a bicycle each so that we could make the most of the end of summer and ditch our car. As it turns out, borrowing two demo-model Elephant Bikes from work was the perfect solution for us.

I am not a cyclist! I haven’t been on a bike for nearly 10 years. My husband is a non-driver and is dependent on an electric bike for transport… but one electric bike is no good for two people. So I packed a couple of Elephant Bikes in the car and off we went…

I should explain that we have an aging dog, so we needed to plan all our rides around him. We had to be off-road and we could only manage a few miles before he needed a bit of a snooze. But as we stayed by an old railway line turned bike track, we were in the perfect place.

Loving our Elephant Bikes!

Loving our Elephant Bikes!

We had two of the large sized frames (I am 5’7” and my husband is 6’3” but 22 inch frame was perfect for both of us), we chose not to have the front carriers for ease of transport… that was our only mistake, the baskets would have been much easier than rucksacks. But we were absolutely delighted with the bikes in general. “It just feels like once you start pedaling the bike will go on forever” Jack (the husband) said, “It’s such an easy ride”.

Man and dog happy to be heading towards the pub!

Man and dog happy to be heading towards the pub!

We even let my parents have a go when they came to visit; John said “I haven’t been on a bike for 30 years, but this one is so easy, it feels really safe” as he cycled off with his trousers tucked into stripey socks!

First ride for 30 years... the socks definitely helped!

First ride for 30 years… the socks definitely helped!

We managed a good few rides, all on the gravel track which was muddy and occasionally slippery in places, but the bikes coped fine. The low gearing meant that (despite their weight) they were able to cope with pootling along at Border Collie speed, but when he did decide he had enough energy for a canter, the bikes were more than capable of keeping up. We used them to get to the shops and transport all our food. Of course, we made the odd trip to the pub too… well, we were on holiday!

When my husband reads this bike review he’ll finally realise I had dual purpose in suggesting we used Elephant Bikes as our ride of choice. We’re selling these bikes so that we raise funds to pay to ship thousands more to Malawi and I have always believed in the “cause”. Now that I have spent two weeks on my two wheels I can say in all confidence that we have a brilliant product as well as a great purpose.

Ele Bikes in their natural environment!

Ele Bikes in their natural environment!

Breaking News

We are now allowed to say “as featured on the BBC” following a great article about the bikes on tonight’s Midland’s Today!

"Re-cycling" in a literal sense. A charity in Staffordshire is reconditioning bicycles used by the Royal Mail, selling…

Posted by BBC Midlands Today on Tuesday, 18 August 2015