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Jem and Silla

Our founder Jem: In the papers for all the right reasons

Our founder Jem has spent the last week blushing. Rather wonderfully, he’s featured in The Evening Standard’s Top Ten People Shaping London’s Future. Here’s what they had to say about Jem:

“Being named Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015 was acknowledgment that Jem Stein’s simple idea for getting asylum-seekers on two wheels is working. Based in Denmark Hill, The Bike Project workshop receives donations of second-hand bikes, then repairs and distributes them to people seeking asylum in the UK. So far more than 1,000 refugees have benefited from his scheme, saving money on transport costs in the capital.

The project employs a refugee as a full-time bike mechanic and offers bike-maintenance workshops. It also runs women-only cycling proficiency classes.”

There are 9 other wonderful people featured in the article, and you can read the full thing over at The Evening Standard’s website.

9 Top Cycling Tips for Newbies

New to cycling? Just getting back on the bike after a bit of a hiatus? Getting back into cycling may be like, well, riding a bike, but getting a refresher is always good.

Here are our Claire’s top tips for staying safe and confident on your two-wheeler.

  1. Take up space in the road: make yourself big! Being assertive and being seen is one of the most important things to remember on the road.
  2. Make sure you don’t cycle in the gutter; it’s got the most debris in it which leads to more visits from the puncture fairy, is has the worst road surface, and the highest risk of collision with pedestrians who step out into the road while updating their Facebook status.
  3. Leave a car door’s width, plus a little bit when cycling past parked or otherwise stationary cars. Remember the rhyme “a car door and a little bit more.”
  4. Avoid going down the left hand side of vehicles, especially big ones like lorries. Manoeuvres like this cause many accidents and, sadly, deaths – lorries have more blind spots than you can imagine so err on the side of caution.
  5. If you’re in a traffic jam and you’re filtering, make sure you have enough time to do it safely before the lights change.
  6. If you’re in a traffic jam and you’re not filtering, pretend you’re a car and sit in the middle of the lane so no one can squish you into the curb when the traffic starts moving.
  7. If you’re feeling wobbly or nervous don’t be afraid to get off and push!
  8. TFL offer free cycle training for all people – from families, those new to cycling to old hands wanting some assertiveness and advanced tips. Find it all here.
  9. LCC run a great mix of family friendly and more experienced/fast rider group rides, as well as listing free Dr Bikes and other cycling events. Find out more here.

Under the Olympic Flag

It’s not just countries that take part in the Olympics.

The games have a long tradition of politically uncertain groups participating ‘under the Olympic flag’ – newly independent countries which haven’t had time to set up a formal team, nationals of states under UN sanctions, and others.

But in Rio 2016, for the first time, there is a second group competing under the Olympic flag: the inaugural Refugee Olympic Team.

In June, organisers of the games announced that, to “act as a symbol of hope for refugees worldwide and bring global attention to the magnitude of the refugee crisis”, ten refugees would be nominated by the UN, get trained by their countries of residence, and take part, marching in the opening ceremony ahead of the host nation Brazil.

One Ethiopian, two Congolese, two Syrians and five South Sudanese are out there right now, competing – in swimming, judo and athletics.

These ten refugees, representatives of millions of refugees worldwide, were selected for their sporting abilities. The opportunity that they and the 33 others on the shortlist have had – to train in top athletic facilities around the world and tell their stories to the world at the Olympics – is extraordinary.

The opportunity to fulfill their potential is life changing for any refugee. And, as in the Olympics, The Bike Project believes being physically active can help achieve this potential – in our case by cycling to a more independent, fulfilling life.

Because the bicycles and cycling classes we deliver are life-changing. With them, refugees living in London form part of a community, can travel cheaply and effectively to legal appointments for their asylum case, to college and to friends, and gain new skills to help them settle in to their new homes.

The Refugee Olympic Team is the big picture happening in Brazil.

The Bike Project is the hands-on, oil and grease work happening on the streets of London.

If you’d like to be a part of it, we’d love you to donate a bike, sponsor a bike or donate your time.

Nadia: How she took to the road

Nadia

“Cycling can do lots of stuff for you.”

That’s The Bike Project in a nutshell, but also Nadia’s story.

Nadia came to this country from India as an asylum seeker in 2009, but last summer, something new came into her life when a refugee centre in Snaresbrook advertised a cycling course for women.

Over six months, Nadia and other refugee women from around the world met regularly to learn how to become more mobile. “At first we would take the bikes to a small park, in the basketball court. We learned brakes and gears, and signals, and the things to check for safety before getting on.”

Some of the group, including Nadia, had cycled before in their home countries, but this gave them new challenges because the rules of the road are so different from place to place.

“I was really a bit scared of roundabouts: who is allowed to go first, what the lines mean… But everyone was very patient and supported me, and now whenever I go out, even without the bike, I pay more attention and look at how the road works.

“The instructors were lovely and helped each person focus on what they needed help with.”

The learners got more confident. “We decided to go on a short ride. Then we went on longer rides. I felt very safe, and the weather was good. It makes you happy! I feel more fresh and energetic after cycling.

“And it saves travel fares, which are always so difficult if you are on benefits and have to buy groceries as well.”

Most of the women had such a good time that they kept in touch with each other after the course ended. Some went on to another course about how to maintain their bicycles – “Women Fix it” run by Otesha. And Nadia’s instructors even found her a cycling mentor near her home in East London who could continue to support her and help her build up local knowledge.

Nadia’s final message? “I really wanted to do this interview. I got so much out of The Bike Project, I would want to help in any way I can.”

Names have been changed.
Herne Hille Velodrome

A Sun Chaser’s To Do List

When the sun puts his hat on, we put our cycle helmets on. Here are our favourite places to get pedalling at when the weather’s fine.

Prudential Ride London
The huge London cycling festival, roads will be closed on the weekend of the 30th and 31st July so you can see all of the sights of London by bike. That’s just one of many events you can take part in, so have a look at what other adventures you can have on that weekend.

Lee Valley VeloPark
Remember that thing a few years ago? With all the sports and medals? It was easy to miss, so you may not have noticed this stonking great velodrome in Queen Elizabeth Park, built especially for the 2012 London Olympics. There’s a BMX course, mountain bike trail and road track, too.

Herne Hill Velodrome
The only venue still in use from the 1948 Olympic Games, you can have a go on the track whether you’re a beginner or an expert. They also have lots of sessions for kids of all ages.

Banana Bike Hire
Make your way to Dulwich or Battersea Park and hire a banana to cycle on. They’re a type of recumbent bike (the low down, sit back ones) and a great way to see the parks. You can hire tandems, trikes and other things that wouldn’t look amiss in wacky races.

Our volunteers: the hall of fame

We’ve been able to spruce up hundreds of bikes and help loads of people since we began. And these amazing volunteers have helped us do it.


Will Cardy 

Will is an online marketing expert from an agency called Platypus Digital. Like many of our volunteers, he approached us offering his skills rather than the other way round. He helped us secure a Google grant worth $10k per month in in-kind support and has managed our online marketing ever since. His work has directly contributed tens of thousands of pounds in the form of donations and bike sales not to mention a whole host of other benefits. He does speak mainly in three letter acronyms (PPC, SEO, ROI) but whatever he does it seems to work!

Will


Eva 

Eva is a volunteer who helped set up and run the women’s cycling project. Come rain or shine (the weather is a big deal when running an outdoor project) she is there week in, week out helping refugee women learn to cycle. She has been helping for the past two years which is an incredible amount of time for a volunteer to commit.


Paul Ginsberg 

Paul is yet another tech guru and Salesforce consultant. When he first came to us, he told us that Salesforce would revolutionise what we do and, to our surprise, he was right. Our ability to manage our stock of bikes, communicate with refugees, and monitor our impact has been completely transformed. Many many more refugees benefit as a result of his work.

Paul


Ella Pollock 

Ella wrote our first major impact report: a 15 page in-depth analysis of everything we have done. She spent many hours calling the refugees, collecting the data, and writing it up. And yes she does have a full-time job and a variety of other charitable commitments. It is truly spectacular and we will be featuring it in our next newsletter.

Ella


Andrew Jacobs 

Andrew is a trustee of two charities and mentors a whopping six charity CEOs (no that isn’t a typo: he really mentors six). On top of all that, he somehow finds time to mentor our Director, Jem Stein, and facilitated an operations review at The Bike Project. His immense experience running businesses and charities was crucial in creating the operational template to scale up our work.

Andrew


Ussamane Silla 

Silla is a refugee himself from Guinea-Bissau. Despite living in a homeless shelter in Haringey Green Lanes and having to rely on a crutch to walk, he travels to The Bike Project every week to help repair bikes for other refugees. It always amazes how someone who has so little can give so much of their to help others in a similar situation.

Silla with Carlos


Nick Mair 

Nick is a teacher at a local school who somehow finds the time to spend pretty much every Thursday evening fixing bikes for refugees. We are currently experiencing an overwhelming number of refugees wanting bikes at our sessions but Nick is always a calming, efficient presence in the midst of the chaos unfolding around him. He has also helped collect bikes at his school and raise money from local funders – thanks so much Nick!

Nick


James Sharrock 

James is a professional photographer who usually is employed to photograph rock and metal bands around the world. Over the past year, he has been painstakingly creating a book of photographic portraits of refugees who have benefitted from the project. We have already used many of his stunning photos in our marketing and fundraising materials. In addition to this, he now takes the pictures of the bikes that we sell which has hugely boosted our sales.

James


We’d love you to get involved in whatever way you can. If this lot show anything, it’s that any and all skills are helpful when it comes to running a charity. Find out more about volunteering at our Thursday sessions here.

 

 

Cycling Towards Syria: Calais & Dunkirk, France

Cycle to Syria

This summer, Bike Project volunteers David (hi) and Caz are cycling 2,500 miles across Europe, following the routes of migration back towards Syria. On this trip, we’re trying to learn as much as we can about the effects of migration on residents and refugees alike. Right now, we’re in Germany, having already cycled through England, France and Belgium. In this update, I’d like to tell you a bit about the migrant camps in Calais and Dunkirk, just a couple of days’ cycle from our homes in London.

We’d both visited Calais before, but Dunkirk was completely new to us and couldn’t have felt more different: the Dunkirk migrant camp is to the Calais jungle as Milton Keynes is to London. Where Calais is only now having some semblance of order imposed on its meandering medieval street plan, Dunkirk has been ordered from conception to execution.

The Dunkirk camp, the first in France built to UN standards, is around a quarter the size of the Calais jungle. It’s home to approximately 1,100 people, mostly Iraqi Kurds (~90%). This gives the camp an ethnic and cultural homogeneity that Calais, with its jumbled compounds of Eritrean, Ethiopian, Syrian, Afghan, Pakistani, Sudanese and others, will never have. (Milton Keynes compared to London again!)

The Dunkirk camp opened with the blessing of the local Green Party Mayor and is managed by Utopia, a local charity. Any charities or organisations attempting to manage the communities in Calais have basically failed. Both the recent destruction of half the vast shanty town and the construction of more comfortable container living accommodation have been met with serious opposition, including violent resistance.

But the starkest contrast between the two camps is in enterprise. In Calais there are restaurants, shops, a barbers, churches, mosques, bicycle mechanics, schools, a library, bakeries, a youth centre, a play bus, as well as the bustle of constant construction as architects and carpenters get to work building something new.

Dunkirk is a sleepy suburb in comparison. My Friend’s Cafe serves free tea and coffee and when we passed a folk band were fiddling to a full tent. But the only migrant-run businesses that I saw were a couple of roadside stalls, offering baguettes, biscuits and a few other essentials. That’s why I got quite so excited when I bumped into an Iraqi Kurd making a beehive from scavenged wood. (https://youtu.be/svzB4uFg6lQ)

The look on his face reminded me of the people I meet at The Bike Project, getting stuck into an oily old clanger. Obviously, no one would choose the life of a refugee, but it doesn’t take much to return to them a smidgen of autonomy – whether that’s the tools to fix up an ancient bike, or some scrap wood to corral some stray bees. At the very least, we should share our honey.

For regular updates on the ride, please visit www.davidcharles.info and join the mailing list.

If you’d like to support the ride, then think about donating to our Bike Project fundraiser! https://localgiving.org/fundraising/cyclingsyria

Second hand? Oh no, this is vintage…

Vintage Dawes Galaxy

Stu is one of our resident bike gurus. An expert in all things two-wheeled, he’s got a soft spot for the vintage variety.

“I’m definitely into vintage bikes. They were finished elegantly, even the frames were fixed together with flowery swirls called legwork. They’re just more unique.”

It’s not all about looks, though. Stu says, “The quality of materials were better back in the day. It’s common for bikes to be 30 years old and absolutely fine. They’re very hard wearing.”

So why does it feel like the vintage bike trend is so new? Stu’s got a few theories. “Cycling’s more popular since the London Olympics, so you’ve got people looking to get back into cycling for perhaps the first time since they were kids. They want bikes that remind them of what they used to ride.

“Also there’s the hipster culture of recent graduates. Money’s tight but they still want something that looks good, so vintage cycling is back on the map.

“And of course there’s up-cycling (pardon the pun). People are trying to be green, bikes are one way they can do that, and a second hand bike is even better.”

And best of all, a second hand and vintage bike from The Bike Shop will help get a bike to refugees in London. There’s always a few in the shop (and there’s a real gem in at the moment – the gorgeous Dawes number in the picture), so keep checking back for new ones.

All the fun of the Dulwich Festival Fair

What’s summer in Blighty without a good old Fair? Come and join us at The Dulwich Festival Fair on Sunday 8th May. There’ll be food, live music and loads of entertainment for families.

The Bike Project will be there, with secondhand kids’ bikes for sale with all proceeds going back into The Bike Project. And you can bring your bikes along for a diagnosis from our expert mechanics in our Dr Bike session. They’ll be around to give advice, answer questions and inspire follicular envy.

What?

The Dulwich Festival Fair

When?

Sunday 8th May 11am-4pm

Where?

On Goose Green in East Dulwich

How?

Just turn up – there’ll be plenty of food, drinks, fun and games for you once you arrive.

 

Silla: A Volunteer’s story

Silla and Jem

Silla with Jem, The Bike Project founder. Photo by James Sharrock.

Silla is an amazing bloke. A skilled carpenter, he can build a house from the floor up. A brilliant storyteller, he can tell a tale in four different languages. And since he began volunteering with The Bike Drop three years ago, he can fix any bike up, too.  This is his story.

“I heard about The Bike Drop from The Red Cross. When I went for the first time, I found it very helpful. I couldn’t afford transport when I was studying.”

With only £36 a week to live on and prohibited from working, not being able to afford transport is the norm for asylum seekers. It makes a bike essential.

“There weren’t enough bikes the first time I went, but I was told if I kept coming to the drop in sessions to help, I could find the bike of my dreams. One day I got lucky. I got a bike, and then I kept coming as a volunteer.

I find it so exciting the way The Bike Project have been helping refugees and asylum seekers. As an asylum seeker, if someone doesn’t know you, they don’t talk to you. Volunteering here is the place to forget that, to meet people and have a little laugh.

You make friendships here. I don’t see everyone at The Bike Project as friends, they’re family.

We still need volunteers to fix bikes and help. You’ll learn something new and make new friends.”

 

We’d love for you to join Silla and the rest of us every Thursday from 4:45 – 8pm at 12 Crossthwaite Avenue, Denmark Hill, SE5 8ET. You can help fix up bikes, match helmets and bike lights to people, or just be a friendly face to greet everyone. If you’re interested or have any questions, please get in touch here.

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Jem and Silla

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