Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Wheels4Refugees (bikes are a force for good)

This morning I was going to be in the car anyway giving a friend a lift, so I loaded this tiny little bike into the back and swung by 350 Sparks Street to drop it off at Wheels4Refugees.

I found out about Wheels4Refugees at Spring.Bike.Ottawa (of which more in a future post) and instantly thought of this bike, which I found abandoned in my parking garage last year and picked up because I couldn't just leave it there. It's so cute. It's so tiny. It's so pink and white. The seat says "Magic Dust" on it. It really should have handlebar streamers.

I fixed it up last year thinking I might give it to a friend with a little girl (or a little boy who really likes pink and white), but that never really worked out, and besides - my friends are fine, they can afford to buy tiny bikes for their own daughters. I feel pretty good that this particular tiny bike will go to a kid who's been through hell.

A family arriving in Ottawa fleeing a war zone gets here with nothing. Instead of settling them here with the expectation that they'll have to get a car, Wheels4Refugees wants to give them the option of biking, which saves a lot of money on transportation. It also gives them a chance to get to know their new neighbourhoods that might not happen by car or transit. Kids who have been through traumatic experiences benefit from outdoor play, and some of the kids coming here haven't been able to go outside and play in, literally, years. Now, with bikes and some street-safety training, they can start exploring independently and hopefully gain some confidence and start to recover from what they've been through. Parents can get to work and language classes and other services without having to pay for and navigate transit, or ask their sponsors for rides; older kids can get themselves to school.

You can donate bikes any time at 350 Sparks Street, which used to be a hotel and is now the headquarters for CapitalWelcomes. They also need bike lights, reflectors and bells. I've got some extra inner tubes I may drop off. They'll also take cash donations. If you're keen and have time, they're looking for volunteers to teach cycling skills and help people find safe bike routes, Arabic speakers to help with training and translation, volunteer bike mechanics, and people with cars and racks to help pick up and drop off bikes, (I may not be able to speak Arabic, but I do have a car, so I've signed up for that last one. If you've got a bike rack you can loan me, let's talk.)