Asylum Archives - The Bike Project

A lovely article about refugees in The Guardian…

The Bike Project

And, extremely excitingly, we’re in it. The Guardian have highlighted the amazing stuff that asylum seekers and refugees do once they make it to Britain. Amongst the chefs, journalists and nurses, there are our very own bike mechanics and volunteers.

As Kirstie Brewer writes, ‘Since launching in 2013, the Bike Project has given away 1,800 bikes. Today it’s very busy. Volunteers and staff mill around, introducing visitors to their bikes and kitting them out with helmets, bike locks, reflective jackets and maps of London. Then they’re taken out for a spin around the neighbourhood to get acquainted with their new wheels and learn about road safety.

Maizer, a Sudanese genocide survivor, says his bike has restored some dignity and independence to his life. “It’s like I have new wings.”’

 

We’re really proud to appear alongside such amazing charities who are also helping refugees find confidence and to reach their full potential. You can read the whole article over at The Guardian.

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.

Ahmad with bike

Riding on a smile: a Syrian refugee and his bike

Riding on a smile: a Syrian refugee and his bike

Ahmad, a Syrian refugee, with his bike

Ahmad, a Syrian refugee, with his bike

 

Getting around London is expensive for everyone, let alone for a refugee living on the weekly government asylum allowance of £36.95. A London travelcard (zones 1 and 2) costs £32.10 a week.

Whilst seeking asylum, it is vital that people are able to access essential legal, medical and other support services around London, on top of paying for food and other necessities.

It’s a lot to cover with just £36.95.

This is Ahmad’s story.

Ahmad is 33 years old, and came to London a year ago after fleeing violence and persecution in his homeland, Syria. This is a plight sadly shared by over 8,000,000 Syrians since 2011.

When Ahmad arrived in London, he was a stranger in an unfamiliar city, and had no one to turn to for help and support.

For Ahmad, getting to and from important places, such as the supermarket and the doctors was a huge challenge on his meagre budget of £36.95 a week.

One evening, Ahmad attended a community support meeting and was told about The Bike Project. Given his first impressions of London, he was intrigued to hear that someone he’d never met would give him a bike for free.

After looking up The Bike Project online, he headed down to the workshop in Denmark Hill where he was greeted by ‘happy, smiling people’.

A couple of hours later, Ahmad rode away on his new bike, setting himself the rather bold target of navigating his way back to north London.

Thinking back, Ahmad tells me: ‘I felt welcome; welcome and accepted.’

From the moment his foot touched the pedal, Ahmad felt like a new man. He loved the freedom and experience of cycling around London. Importantly, Ahmad now spends the money he saves on transport, on food and other necessities.

Having a bike has given him the opportunity to experience this unique city in a personal way, instead of spending his precious allowance on transport.

Ahmad now rides up to 30 miles a day and knows London better than most of its inhabitants. He has friends in Finsbury Park, Portobello Road and Kentish Town and can now visit them regularly – he’s fit as a fiddle.

He’s also been back to The Bike Project to service his bike and to volunteer his services, helping other refugees to get a bike.

It is clear in Ahmad’s voice that having a bike has made a real difference to his life – as he himself gleefully exclaims before we say goodbye:

“I LOVE my bike!”

 

 

3 ways you can support The Bike Project and help other refugees like Ahmad:

Visit the Bike Shop

Sponsor a bike

Donate an old bike

All donations and money made from selling refurbished bikes go back into funding the Bike Project and helping more refugees.

Sign up to our newsletter and get £15 off your first bike

Subscribe now and we'll send you our friendly newsletter including our latest bikes (not too often, we promise!) and a code giving you £15 off when you spend £100 or more

Remember all profits go towards keeping refugees cycling!

Jem and Silla

Thank you!

 

Donate a Bike

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Sponsor a Bike

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