A passion for smiles saw Reuben Griffiths Bekoe cycle 13 hours a day across Ghana, sleeping in police stations and living off a diet of bread and cola.
Bekoe, 21 left his home in Accra on August 10, got on his bike and started a four-month adventure, biking across all ten regions of Ghana.
He was raising money and awareness for the Ghana Cleft Foundation. The Foundation operates on children with cleft deformities, at no cost to the parents.
The deformity will mean a child has a physical split across the upper lip, often extending beyond the base of the nose.
“They [the Foundation] operate on people’s generous donations to repair smiles, so in a way to help restore smiles I decided to do something for them.”
He wanted to help the Foundation as it is locally based “doing such a wonderful thing across the length and breadth of this country. They needed the support.”
With the power of social media, he found places to stay, people to meet and funds to pass on.
“I used most of my Facebook posts and Twitter tweets to ask people for their donations. During the ride I also talked to people and asked for their donations. All money is put into the Foundation’s account.”
He was invited to stay with people through the country who were following him on social media.
There were other places he didn’t have social media connections so would sleep in his tent at police and fire service stations.
“One of the worst encounters was in Nkwanta when I walked into the police station and was told they can not accommodate me because the police thought I was [investigative journalist] Anas, and Anas caused a problem there,” he said with a laugh.
He tried in vain to convince them he wasn’t, but ended up sleeping in a fire service station instead.
Promoting a locally-made bike was also part of his adventure - he started the journey on an alumni bike but then switched over to a Ghana-made Boomer bamboo bike.
“People were doubting how strong it was, but using the terrains of Ghana and how bad the road is or sometimes how good it is, I wanted to prove them wrong.”
Everything he needed, he carried on his back, and lived off a diet of cola and bread.
He clocked up about 2000 kilometers through his travels; sometimes he would bike for 50km without seeing a car pass him.
In Nkwanta in the Volta Region, he couldn’t connect to his network, or access his funds on his wallet, relying on the kindness of a stranger to lend him money.
Bekoe met many people through his travels and said his perception of areas of Ghana changed.
“One of the things I would like people to know is Ghana is not just Accra, and Africa isn’t just one place. Travelling across this nation I have met so many people and learned a lot. We should all take charge and do what we love doing. That will make the nation great.”
Bekoe’s ride will officially end this Saturday, where he will donate the Boomer bike to the Ghana National Museum.
To donate to the Ghana Cleft Foundation:
Airtel mobile money number 0263161964
Tigo Cash number 0571500010
Ecobank account 0213074414843601(Kumasi Branch).