Spencer Platt:Getty Images

Bikes for refugees

2 November Nov 2015 1731 02 November 2015
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In London a community of volunteers refurbishes abandoned bikes and donates them to refugees and asylum seekers

In London a community of volunteers, mechanics and refugees refurbishes second hands bikes at their weekly workshops and donate them to asylum seekers and refugees with no access to transport.

These bikes are abandoned, they are not used anymore by their owners, who donate them to the project.
Refugees participate to the workshops and help repair the bikes: they are actively involved, they learn basic maintenance, and also make new friends.

As a matter of fact, as explains Sarah Morpurgo, Project Coordinator of The Bike Project: “People don't flee their countries because they want to, but because they have to and the main problem they face here, especially in London which is a busy city, is isolation.”

“We have refugees who are completely destitute, that have seen terrible things, worst than we can ever imagine”, explains Jem Stein, Director and Founder of The Bike Project. “They use their bike to go from shelter to shelter, from charity to charity, to feed themselves. Anyway they come every single week to give their time to help other refugees get a bike and benefit the same way that they have”.

Anyone can help and contribute to make the project grow, in many ways: by donating a bike, participating to workshops as volunteers, (learning basic bike maintenance) and also sponsoring a bike: a £10 per month donation can allow a refugee to cycle safely every year.

Besides the workshops to fix up the bikes The Bike Project also runs a separate project for refugee women, to teach them how to cycle. They are beginner cyclers and at the end of the course (that is held once a week for 10 weeks) they receive a bike as a present.

Where did the idea of the project come from?
Asylum seekers are prevented from finding employment and they are forced to live on only £36 a week in benefits.
A bike can make an enormous difference in the life of a refugee, especially in a city like London where transport has a very high cost.
“It is a precondition to feel socially included and integrated inside the society, and it gives a great benefit to physical and mental health”.

For refugees with no money for public transport a bike is a sustainable way to reach the resources they need: healthcare, education, lawyers, charity that can feed them, psychological support and much more. Just one of these abandoned bikes can help save a refugee £20 per week on bus fare. Which makes 1040 a year.

During the first year of activity of The Bike Project 300 refugees have received a bike, making a collective saving of £ 312,000.

Photo gallery: ©The Bike Project

Cover photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.