Following the outbreak of war in western Sudan, Darfuri refugee Adam fled to the UK in search of a better life. Not long after his arrival in 2009, he struck up a friendship with Jem Stein, a student, and mentor, who found out that one of the biggest challenges Adam was facing at the time was transportation.
Placed in accommodation on the outskirts of London and unable by law to work, Adam had limited access to essential services. Looking to help him out, Stein found him a bike, starting what would become The Bike Project. Officially launched in 2013, the project has one mission: collect old bikes, refurbish them, and pair them with refugees who need them.
As reported by FT, the UK receives more than 30,000 asylum applications each year and roughly the same number of bikes are abandoned over 12 months in London.
In order to scale the initiative, Stein set up a trading arm — for every batch of bikes collected from the charity’s network of collection points, one-third are kept aside to be refurbished and sold, with all the proceeds then fed back into The Bike Project. “It’s allowed us to grow to a point where we employ 28 staff,” adds Stein.
In addition to tackling the mobility issue, the initiative targets another challenge often facing migrants and refugees — loneliness. According to a 2017 report by the Jo Cox Commission, almost 60 percent of migrants and refugees in London report feeling isolated as their biggest challenge — a struggle only made worse by lack of transportation.
“I can attend church regularly, which I couldn’t afford to do before,” Sadegh, a recent beneficiary, tells FT. “With the help of my bike, I’m able to fill the gap left by not having my family around.”
Over the last eight years, The Bike Project has paired more than 6,500 refugees and asylum seekers in the UK with bikes. It currently has workshops in south London, Birmingham, and Wimbledon.
To learn more about the empowering role that bicycles can play in people’s lives, check out these organizations also working to provide refugees with mobility and independence through cycling.
Image source: The Bike Project