refugees Archives - The Bike Project

Teaching refugees to cycle with confidence

Leila

How do you teach something that you find instinctive?

That’s the question Leila asked when she started volunteering at our Women’s Project, which teaches refugee women how to ride a bike with confidence.

“When I started helping out, I was struck by how supportive the environment was. But I found as a cyclist that it was quite challenging to break down how to ride.”

Cycle Confident offered The Bike Project a place on a 4 day training course to become an NSI Cycle Instructor. Leila was the perfect candidate.

“As a car driver you have a driving test, but there isn’t really a cycling equivalent. It was quite an exhausting 4 days but it really helped my confidence. As soon as I had completed the course, I could work as a fully qualified instructor.”

Combined with this formal training and her own experiences of gaining confidence in cycling, Leila is now an absolute cycling guru, empathising with the women’s fears and helping nurture their skills.

Leila’s cycling journey

“My own journey began when I learned to ride as a child. As a teenager I rode a bit, but as an adult I wasn’t cycling. About 8 years ago, I got in with a group of friends who rode everywhere, and I was having to catch up with them by bus! They had something good going on and I wanted to be part of it. I grew up in London, but the idea of riding here was quite intimidating to me.”

After taking some cycle sessions provided by her borough, Leila learned how important training is to confidence. “Since those sessions, I’ve cycled everywhere!”

Now that she’s fully qualified, we employ Leila as an instructor. She’s grateful that Cycle Confident gave her the opportunity, and so are we – along with all of the people she helps train.

“The sense of achievement at the Women’s Project is palpable  – the sessions are always rewarding, every week it surprises me when someone starts pedalling.  It reminds me each time why I do it – it’s a privilege to part be part of that.

“Last week, one of the women in our group, who had been quite quiet, said as she left, “It was such a great session, I feel like I’m 16 again.”

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.

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.

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Jem and Silla

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