Mitzvah Day: Donate a bike for refugees in London
PUBLISHED: 11:48 02 November 2014 | UPDATED: 11:48 02 November 2014
A unique project that repairs second-hand bikes and gives them to refugees who have fled torture and oppression is launching a massive donation drive in Finchley Road.
The Bike Project, which fixes up unwanted bikes donated by Londoners, will be setting up its repair shop at the JW3 centre in the lead up to Mitzvah Day.
The annual day of social action, this year taking place on November 16, will see volunteers and refugees work together for the day, fixing up bikes for those left isolated and without any means of transport.
The initiative is the brainchild of Jem Stein, who founded The Bike Project in March last year. The 26-year-old from Willesden Green says he was inspired by Assaf, a new teenager in the city who had fled the Darfur genocide.
“He came to London alone and with nothing,” he said.
“Physically, he was now safe but he faced immense obstacles in creating a normal life here.
“Moreover, he was stuck on the outskirts of London and unable to access vital resources.
“One day, I found Assaf ashen-faced. He had terrible news: his parents and sister had been murdered in Darfur. Assaf was broken, paralysed and isolated.
“But a bike changed that.
“Mitzvah Day is always a great was of boosting what we do and this year we are really excited to partner up with JW3 as it has such a massive reach.
“Refugees and asylum seekers come to this country fleeing torture and oppression, and they’re often found left in a state of limbo that can last for years.
“Many are placed in social housing on the outskirts of London, so one of the biggest challenges is getting around.
“A bike is a sustainable way of providing a means of transport.
“More than 27.000 bikes are abandoned in London every year. Over the same period, some 13,500 asylum seekers flee to the city.
“Just one of these abandoned bikes can help save a refugee £20 a week on bus fare.”
The project has so far fixed up and handed over more than 500 bikes. Currently in the process of moving from its current home in Hackney to larger premises in Denmark Hill, the group is expanding and has set itself an ambitious target of giving away 1,000 bikes in its second year.
One of those who’s already benefitted is Biniam Ghebreyohannes, 20, who arrived in London from Eritrea in September last year.
“The Bike Project has been so helpful – it’s saved me time and money when I needed both most,” he said.
“I was living in a shelter in Caledonian Road when I first arrived and public transport is just so expensive. Getting a bike opened the city up to me. I don’t have much money but I wanted to help others like me so I volunteered to help fix up bikes afterwards.”
If you have an unwanted bike you’d like to donate, you can drop it off at the JW3 anytime until November 16.
Volunteers – with or without bike maintenance skills – are also welcome to volunteer their time for Mitzvah Day.
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