“I was not experienced AT ALL in cycling! I bought a bike in May 2020, and had gone on it maybe three times before this challenge. Honestly, anybody can do it!
Meet Isabelle, a marketing and communications manager for a domestic abuse charity in Yorkshire and one our fantastic 2021 Refugee Routes challenge champions.
Isabelle took on the 301 mile-challenge cycling the equivalent distance from Zarzis, Tunisia to Pozzallo Italy- a common migration route from many refugees. She came onto this route by accident in fact as she accidentally told a friend she was doing the 301-mile route, rather than the 105-mile route that she originally picked, and with that she couldn’t back out!
She absolutely smashed the 301 miles, cycling 305 in total and fundraising £1,130 for us- funding bikes and cycling kits of 11 refugees. We had a chat with Isabelle to see how she got on with the challenge and top tips for new Refugee Routes fundraiser.
She explained to us why she was drawn to fundraising for The Bike Project.
“I really liked that it was a tangible ask, the money I raised would go towards bicycles, safety gear or lessons. I think it shows an incredible amount of kindness to people who really need it, and by teaching people to cycle you’re giving them a lifelong skill which they can take anywhere with them. I didn’t want to raise money for a charity who would spend it on big CEO wages, or anything like that – with The Bike Project being a smaller charity, it seemed to have a more direct impact.”
We talked about her experience doing the challenge and how she learnt that she is capable of more than she realised.
I learnt that I could actually achieve something after putting my mind to it, and I learnt to persevere more than I had ever done previously. Any time it was tough, I just thought about how hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people travel this many miles because they have no choice, and that made me stop moaning and get on with it, and raise as much money as possible.
With 301 miles to rack up certain rides become regular for Isabelle to break down the challenge. She explained:
“There’s a ride from my house to a large country park which is about a 15 mile round trip, it’s just a really nice ride through three different parks and lots of fields – places I’ve driven past hundreds of times and never noticed how lovely the countryside was.”
We asked Isabelle for her top fundraising tips, as clearly she knows what she is doing with over £1000 fundraised! Her top two are:
- Update your social media every time you go on a ride, and put links to your fundraising pages – I saw a big increase in people donating directly after a post.
- If your work has an internal newsletter, ask if you can put it in there – I got quite a lot of donations from my work.
Refugee Routes is an adaptable cycling challenge that can suit anyone’s ability and capacity. Although 305 miles sounds incredibly massive to some of us, you can slowly rack up the miles in your own time and challenge yourself just like Isabelle.
“I was not experienced AT ALL in cycling!! I bought a bike in May 2020, and had gone on it maybe three times before this challenge. Honestly, anybody can do it! From a personal point of view, it’s great for your fitness and you can really see yourself improve daily. You visited places you’ve never been before, and it’s really meditative to just ride, alone on an empty road.”
We spoke to Isabelle her drive to support refugees and how she would like refugees to be supported in the UK.
“Because it could happen to any of us. You don’t choose where you are born, or what country you are raised in. We are incredibly lucky to be in a country that hasn’t been torn apart from war in the last 80 years, but luck is all it is. It’s completely natural to flee from war and disaster and refugees deserve some humanity and empathy from those more fortunate than themselves.
I would like refugees to not face discrimination from society, I would like there to be more of a widespread sense of empathy for them. I would like refugees to be able to access the same support for domestic abuse as any other victim, which they currently are not. I would like the UK to stand up and help those in need, instead of treating refugees as a problem that needs to be fixed. More kindness, more empathy and more compassion is what’s needed.”
Incredibly well put Isabelle. Thanks for chatting to us and sharing your experience. Ride in solidarity with refugees and start your own Refugee Routes challenge today!