When you’re starting with nothing, a little something can make a huge difference. That’s the idea behind Bikes for Refugees, which collects old bikes and helmets and puts them in the hands of newly arrived New Zealanders. You might have seen it featured on Simon Morton’s Along for the Ride recently (from 11.55 in that episode), or heard about them on Radio NZ, or spotted their stand at Open Streets.
It’s a fantastic initiative that Cycle Action has got in behind over the years.
Remember last year’s colourful Christmas Tree of Bikes on the waterfront, organised by ChildFund, to raise awareness about the value of a bike-gift for children in developing countries? When the tree was dismantled, those bikes went to the local cause.
You only have to read Jess Etheridge’s recent report on one recipient of those Christmas bikes to see how important a bike can be in building a new life. Joelle Kusimweray and her siblings will use the bike to get around in Pt England, their new home in what was once “a country they had never heard of”, a long way from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Out at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre, the ever cheerful Diana Swarbrick, coordinator of Bikes for Refugees, oversees two shipping containers full of bicycles. “The funny thing is, I don’t even like bikes, particularly!” she laughs, when you ask her “Why bikes?”. But she loves to see the freedom a bike brings to the people she works with.
Funnily enough, she’s not short of bikes at the moment (although bikes in reasonable condition are always welcome, as are helmets), but what she needs rather urgently is mechanics.
Most of the donated bikes need fixing up, one way or another.
So Diana asked us to put out a call for help. Her dream team of volunteer mechanics would show up during work hours on week days, but if there are enough on a weekend, she could plan a weekend fix-it session.
And before you ask – yes, Diana is in touch with Teau and his crew of budding bike-fixers. There’s definitely a great synergy there, but good things take time, and those kids are still learning! And yes, organisations like NextBike and Auckland Transport regularly step in to help out.
But what Diana needs is help right now – help to make more of these bikes road-worthy more quickly, so they can go straight into the hands of those who need them most.
Tinkerers and bike nuts with a few hours up your sleeve: we want you!
Can you help? Contact Diana directly – details are on the Bikes for Refugees Facebook page.
No commitment is too small. If you fix one bike, you change one life.