This is the story of the mini trike that was created in Kasese in Western Uganda by Kio, pronounced as Chio, a welder. He was producing hand-pedaled tricycles for CanUgan and our Uganda partner KADUPEDI (Kasese District Union of Persons with Disabilities) since early 2010. Kasese is in the foothills of the Rwenzori mountain range and the terrain is very rough and uneven. Tricycles provided an excellent means to mobility-impaired people in Kasese to travel safely on such terrain.
Early in 2012, Carleton University’s School of Industrial Design (SID), READ Initiative (Research, Education, Accessibility, Design) and CanUgan collaborated on a project funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Bjarki Hallgrimsson from SID, Dean Mellway of READ and I were the key collaborators.
One of the key components of the project entailed a visit to Kasese by SID students to learn about the design and mechanics of the tricycle from real-life production of tricycles. Accordingly, four SID students were slated to visit Kasese.
The idea of procuring a mini trike in Canada emerged as these students began producing a prototype. The purpose was for the students to look at a concrete example of the tricycle from which they could learn about its design, features and mechanics before proceeding to Uganda.
KIO – OUR TRICYCLE-MAKER
Kio specialized in making and fixing steel windows, doors, tables and miscellaneous articles, but tricycle-making provided him with a welcome change. Besides, it also provided him with regular business each quarter.
Kio was slim, about five feet eight inches tall and an active man. When I first met Kio, he was working in Kasese town with his antiquated tools in an open-air location that was susceptible to dust and rain. He used to wear his welding goggles on his forehead, not on his eyes even when he was engaged in welding. And, instead of a ruler, to cut pipes, rods and other material he used his fingers to measure.
Despite these habits, Kio was a good and honest craftsman. He enjoyed his work and worked from morning till late evening every day of the week.
MAKING OF THE MINI TRICYCLE
On my subsequent visit to Kasese, I requested Kio to make a smaller version of the tricycle which can be shipped to Canada. Kio was excited and began collecting material for such a tricycle. As he started collecting the material, he was not able to find similar kinds of materials as used for the regular full-size tricycle. For example, the wheel tires were much wider than the regular tricycle. Regardless, Kio proceeded with whatever material was locally available.
Once he completed the mini trike, we packed it in one piece in a huge box with sufficient padding of newspapers and old rags to ensure its safe journey. I was not too sure whether it would arrive to Ottawa safely. But after about three months the package was delivered. Much to my pleasant surprise, it was in one piece, not broken or dented. Equally surprisingly, I was not charged any customs duty or taxes.
MINI TRIKE IN CANADA
Faculty members and students at Carleton were excited to see a replica of the regular tricycle. It enhanced their understanding of its features, design and mechanics. This was important as the students were in the process of building a prototype of the tricycle at Carleton.
In addition to sharing the mini-trike with the School of Industrial Design, we also used it as an exhibit at our annual fall celebrations for our supporters and guests to view and appreciate the product for which they were donating to CanUgan.
A FINAL WORD
First thing in the morning of 24th of March 2015, I received the very sad news that Kio had died the day before. At first, I couldn’t believe the news. So, I called our local team leader who confirmed that indeed Kio had suddenly collapsed at work and before he could be taken to the hospital, he had passed away. The cause of his death was inflammation of acute appendix. He died at age 43. He is no more, but the mini trike he had produced with much enthusiasm, energy and love is still intact to remind us of that wonderful man.