volunteer Archives - The Bike Project

Happy New Year!

Can you guess which New Year’s Resolution often tops the most popular lists? If you guessed ‘Support The Bike Project’, we think you’re not far off.

Along with ‘exercise more’ (which is the usual top spot), loads of other common resolutions are Bike Project friendly. So if you’ve chosen any of these 3, we reckon we can help you keep it for the whole year round.

 

Get fit/exercise more

This is an easy one – you’ll want one bike, a route to work and Bob’s your uncle. The best place to get that bike? Why, The Bike Project, of course. Our shop is full of fantastic second hand, expertly fixed up bikes for you to choose from. And every penny goes back into supporting refugees in the UK. You can even find the helmet, lights and high vis you’ll need for safe January cycling, too.

Save money

This is an even easier one, because you just do number 1 again. You’ll be very surprised at how quickly you make back the cost of a bike (especially compared to a season ticket on public transport). And of course, as all of our bikes are second hand, they’re a complete bargain so you save money compared to buying a brand new bike. And it’s even more of a bargain when you take into account our amazing professional mechanics who fix our bikes up to be as good as new.

Get involved in a charity

Every Thursday you can pop along to The Bike Project HQ to give us a hand with fixing up the bikes that will be given away to asylum seekers. Our workshops run from 5-8pm at 12 Crossthwaite Avenue, Denmark Hill, SE5 8ET. There’s no need to book or have any knowledge about how to fix up a bike – you just turn up and muck in.

If you’re not able to donate your time or you live a bit too far away and you’d still like to support The Bike Project, you can make a one off financial donation here – any amount is greatly appreciated.

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

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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