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Eva Boenders tells us a bit about life as a JRS visitor, and the enthusiasm there for bikes!

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I like attending Thursdays at the day centre of Jesuit Refugee Service. I never know who will come along. There may be new visitors. Or visitors who have been coming for a long time. I may catch some in a good mood, and others may be sad or anxious.  No one Thursday is the same.  Over the years I have tried different things to brighten up the mornings and nurture the crowd. I partnered up with Pret-a-Manger which now distributes its surplus sandwiches to our day centre. I handed out international newspapers while people were waiting for the reimbursement of their bus pass. I created a log to record visitors’ qualifications and wishes. How would they like to spend their day – awaiting status?

Initially, mostly men were recording interest. When a few months ago, The Bike Project launched a Learn To Ride A Bicycle programme for female asylum seekers, it took me no time to get a list together of interested candidates. The thrill of learning a new skill and managing the London roads has boosted the confidence of many women whose asylum claims have dragged on and whose pain lingers. It has been a fantastic initiative to get the ladies out of the day centre and introduce them to freedom. Learning to ride a bicycle and keeping the bike at the end of the course, has made an incredible difference in the lives of some of our day centre users. It has been a brilliant way of bringing movement in their day and empowering them to earn their own transportation. Jesuit Refugee Service is excited to have found a partner in the Bike Project.

Thank you!

Eva Boenders
Outreach and Development
Jesuit Refugee Service – UK

DOST and The Bike Project

TBP + DOST = FUN FUN FUN! (words by Marian Spiers)

I’ve been bringing small groups of young people to The Bike Project for nearly 2 years now.  In this time, around 20 of the separated young people and migrants who we work with have benefited from a bicycle.  I work as the Youth Work Programme Manager at Dost ( www.dostcentre.orgin East London, and found out about the project through twitter.  I arranged to meet Jem, and have been taking young people to the project ever since.  It’s friendly, laid back and the young people enjoy the atmosphere. They get to learn new skills, meet new people, and receive a bike complete with all the safety equipment.

This gives them freedom, saves them money and improves their health and lifestyle.

Down at the workshop, it’s been really nice for our young people to meet other people from their own countries, volunteering and learning to fix bikes together.  One of the young people was also given the opportunity to go along and help at some corporate bike- repair fundraising sessions, for which he was paid and which greatly increased his confidence.

It’s a great project and provides a safe, welcoming space to everyone who comes along… it’s simple, easy and promotes recycling: turning something unwanted into something that is useful and beneficial to many.

Klevis Kola and The Bike Project

We paired up with Klevis Kola Foundation, a community organisation that supports refugee and asylum-seeking families. Words from Eleanor Brown (Education Outreach, Youth Club and Mentoring Co-ordinator)

Klevis Kola and The Bike Project

 

In the heat of August, the Bike Project and Klevis Kola Foundation converged on Tooting Bec Common for an afternoon of cycling together. Some of the group had never ridden a bike before but by the end of the afternoon, thanks to the support and encouragement of the Bike Project team, our two novices were gaining in confidence, able to stay upright, and were grinning from ear to ear. The rest of the group all hopped on bikes and took part in tests of their skill, races, and the freedom and joy that cycling brings. We had not told the group that they could take bikes home, wanting to make sure they were safe enough to do so before we offered them. All of the group could ride and were amazed when they were told they could keep their bike. The Bike Project kitted them out with helmets, lights and locks- everything they need to keep them safe.

One child had just had her 12th birthday and said her bike was her best present ever; another was keen to go home and share his new bike with his brother. An 18 year old was thrilled with the freedom it would now give him, meaning he could get to football training sessions quickly and for free, rather than weighing up the choice between an extremely long and slow bus ride versus the expense of a train. Many of the young people we work with are frustrated that they cannot afford to go to a gym, take exercise classes or swim as it is prohibitively expensive; having a bike will help them exercise and gives them a free social activity they can do with their friends. It also opens up the whole of London to them; one of our group was so excited at his new found freedom that he cycled from Crystal Palace to Tower Bridge, getting terribly lost on his way home, but delighted that his horizons are no longer limited to his small corner of South West London. All of our young people have asked us to say thank you to you all.

We at Klevis Kola Foundation are thankful for people like the Bike Project, taking a simple idea and turning it into something life changing.

Adam Francies - The Bike Project

A guest blog from the one and only Adam Francies

I remember first hearing about The Bike Project over three years ago. The simplest of ideas. Some people who have bikes don’t use them. And some people who don’t have bike would really appreciate them. Match the bikes to the people. Simple. And yet, there was a gap there for an idea. That idea has grown into what now is The Bike Project, and three years later, over 470 lives have been changed.

470 bikes. 470 helmets. 470 locks. 470 front lights and back lights.

470 refugees and asylum seekers have been given sustainable transportation. Saving 470 people money each day.

Thursday night workshops are always brilliant, especially during the long summer evenings. A mix of staff, volunteers, locals and beneficiaries coming together outside a small workshop in Hackney. Fixing bikes, exchanging stories, watching football and generally all moving towards a shared goal.

Adam Francies - The Bike Project

Guest Blog: David Janner-Klausner, Chair of The Bike Project.

Our web site has a quote from Helen Bamber OBE, who died last week aged 89:

“The Bike Project provides the first step into normal living for those who have faced persecution and atrocity”.

Helen was an early supporter of The Bike Project and more qualified than most to voice an opinion. She started working with Jewish refugees from the Nazi Holocaust in 1945 and never left this field of work, focusing on people displaced and dispersed under the worst of circumstances. In 1985 she founded The Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture to provide a specialist service for people coming to UK who carried the impact of torture with them. The mainstream medical services did not have the expertise or time to provide the holistic care needed – listening, translating, being a consistent haven and a place where confidence in the goodwill of people can gradually be rebuilt.

If I wish anything for The Bike Project which I am so proud to chair it is that we always aspire to also be this kind of place – a place that kindles confidence in goodness. Our team, led by Jem, exudes humanity and humour along with their outstanding commitment and professionalism. Our remit may be highly focused but our ambitions are great. We salute Helen Bamber; as is custom to say in the Jewish tradition, May her memory be a blessing.

David Janner-Klausner, Chair of The Bike Project

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