In Matt’s Words – Volunteering with Inclusive Cycling International in Mozambique
Sharing my passion for adaptive sports doesn’t stop in the United States. Working at the Kelly Brush Foundation fills a part of my heart, but too many people in other lands don’t have the same opportunities in our community. That’s why I’ve chosen to use my vacation time to volunteer overseas.
Inclusive Cycling International is a small but mighty US 5013c that’s served thousands on many continents. Founder and Executive Director Greg Milano has been a leader in the adaptive cycling community for decades. Greg is the former Cycle Director for the Bay Area Outreach Program based in Berkeley California, and an extreme adventurer, boat enthusiast, and community builder.
Greg asked me to join him for a project in Kenya in March of 2022. After a month-long project, I returned to the U.S. as a changed man. When Greg reached out at the beginning of 2023 asking if I would join him in Mozambique for another project I couldn’t say no.
You’re probably wondering what this project entails. Well, I’m here to tell you a lot of time, love, sweat, passion, and money goes into an Inclusive Cycling International project. Greg works hard in the US to secure grants and funding from the US Embassy in the project country. Then locating local partners usually from the Nelson Mandela Fellowship. After partners are secured Greg figures out what type of adaptive cycling equipment is needed in the area. Then finalizing dates and jumping on the plane.
After arrival, we met with the local team and the US Embassy to go over the project’s itinerary. Then we build all the bikes as a team so everyone understands how they work. This training is one of my favorite days. Most folks who participate catch on quickly during the first bike build. They end up building the fleet with little assistance.
As part of this same training, we teach the team cycle safety and general maintenance. Then they hop on the bikes and ride. The smiles I’ve witnessed during someone’s first recreational experience have been beyond emotional. I do a fair amount of crying during these projects.
To be real, a lot of the tears come from sadness. I know firsthand how hard life can be with a disability. That’s with the resources I have in the US. Imagine not having a solid roof over your head, no running water or power, and you have no idea when the next meal is coming. Life can be unfair. This is why I volunteer. Inclusive Cycling International doesn’t only help set up adaptive cycling programs. They work with local government and community leaders to help create a recreational outlet for people with disabilities.
I want to quickly share a story about someone I met during my trip to Mozambique. Her name is Amelia and she’s an African Games medalist in wheelchair badminton. Amelia doesn’t own her own sports chair or racket but still finds a way to be on the podium. She was turned down multiple times from medical school based on her disability. Can you imagine what Amelia could accomplish with basic human rights?
Thanks for reading and being part of the KBF family. Thanks for all you do for our community. Folks like you make it possible for KBF and other organizations like Inclusive Cycling International to change lives. Cheers to you!