A couple of weeks ago I received a heart-warming email that reaffirmed my wish to help address health and inequality in Scotland. Pharmaceuticals is an industry that can have a bad reputation and this, in a small way, helps to redress the balance.
It was about this time last year that Cheemia made a donation to Bikes for Refugees (Scotland) – a worthwhile charity that refurbishes bikes to give to refugees or ‘new Scots’ in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Founder Stephen McCluskey dropped me a line to let me know how that donation had been used and the significant ways in which it had changed people’s lives.
He estimated that the donation meant the refurbishment and distribution of 30 bicycles to refugees who had made Scotland their home. Each of those bikes came with a welcome pack with essential bike accessories, such as helmet, lock and lights, as well as information about other local support services and resources.
The provision of a bike seems like a simple package of support but my goodness how it changes people’s lives. Stephen was kind enough to share what some of the recipients had said after receiving a bike.
Here are a few of the comments made by those who have been helped:
“The bike provides me with mobility and easy access to all parts of the city without being dependent on buying expensive bus tickets. If you are an asylum seeker you are not allowed to work and have an allowance of just over five pounds a day.” Zozan
“Bikes provide free travel and make it easier to travel to places like college and volunteering, and for those that are alone and have lost their families they help to meet new people and make new friends." Mehdi
“It has made me able to get more integrated with the community and has helped me to improve my fitness. Thanks Bikes for Refugees”. Muhammad
"As a young Syrian woman, I have not had opportunities to cycle until I came to Scotland. Getting a bike from Bikes for Refugees has made it possible for me to do this great outdoor activity. A real bonus is that I am now able to take part in ‘Freedom from Torture's’ cycle event in July to raise funds for them and I am training hard to be able to keep up. This bike has expanded my life!" Violet
“It is very important for personal health. When you don’t have time or money to go to the gym and swimming, cycling makes you always active. Having a bike makes your life easier and healthier.” Zozan
“I got a bicycle from Bike for Refugees and I’m so happy with it as it helped me with finances and now don’t need that much for buses. Mentally, it has helped me to be more happy than before. Thanks to everyone who helped me to get a bike and thanks for who donated it.” Anon
“It’s fun and healthy activity and, when we give people a bike, we invite them to our cycling group where you can meet many people from many different countries with people from Scotland.” Mehdi
Maslow's Community Shop, which has been in partnership with Bikes for Refugees for more than two years, says that these positive stories are repeated again and again. Receiving a bike changes refugees’ lives for the better, enabling them to travel around Edinburgh to attend appointments, classes and social events, which otherwise would have been impossible because they couldn't afford the travel costs.
As well as refugees, asylum seekers have benefited including 20 asylum-seeking volunteers who help out at Maslow’s community shop. They have been moved to the outlying areas of Glasgow and, without their bikes, would have been forced to give up their voluntary work.
When people volunteer at Maslow's they have the chance to improve their language skills, learn new skills, such as retail and customer service, gain accreditation, meet new friends and become a part of a community. One volunteer had the opportunity to learn how to fix bikes and volunteered with Bikes for Refugees for a year.
Maslow’s Community shop says that the team at Bikes for Refugees has always welcomed the volunteers; they’ve invited them all to join cycle rides around the city and its environs, which creates social opportunities and the chance to see new places.
I’m so pleased to have helped in a small way and to hear what a difference it makes to those trying to make a new life for themselves in our country.
If you’re interested to find out more about Bikes for Refugees (Scotland), visit their website: http://www.bikesforrefugees.scot/