Each month we’re celebrating some of the community champions we’ve supported in the region.
Leeds Bike Mill is a community-based bike recycling and training co-operative who aim to make cycling and bicycle maintenance skills more accessible to the people of Leeds.
Here, Celia from Leeds Bike Mill tells us more about what they do and how Leeds Community Foundation has provided support.
Tell us about your #GiveLoveLeeds funded project: LCF’s grant enabled us to pilot a brand new project working with women refugees and asylum seekers. The project supported people to take part in a 6-week course with us, where they each built up a bike in our workshop and received basic training in cycling skills, then got to take the bikes home with them! At the end of the programme we gathered at a park for a celebration ride.
What difference has the grant from Leeds Community Foundation made: The grant made a huge difference for us as it enabled us to try something completely new. We knew that the demand for bikes for refugees and asylum seekers is really high, as we’ve received many requests from individuals and organisations over the past few years. It’s something that we really want to support, and this grant gave us the opportunity to try a new way to help.
What are the benefits for those involved: We think Leeds in an amazing city that has so much to offer, but getting around can be expensive, especially if you’re a refugee living on £37 a week. The ability to more easily access support, services and opportunities can make a huge difference. Ultimately it can give you real control over your transport.
For all these reasons we felt that this was a really important project to run. We see fewer women in our bike workshop in general, and many of the women who took part in this project had either never ridden a bike or used a spanner before. We wanted to create a supportive and empowering space for exploratory learning and to gain practical skills. As well as the immediate resource of receiving a bicycle, those who took part also came away with more skills, as well as new opportunities that cycling can bring – from setting up a new cycling group (which one group of women did!) to simply being able to enjoy cycling with their families.
What’s the most rewarding moment from the project: One of our participants had only been in the UK for 3 months when she joined our programme. She had cycled as a child, but hadn’t cycled since then due to knee problems. Together we chose a bike for her that meant she could cycle more comfortably, and as well as the main course content, we were able to share tips for how to look after knee joints to prevent extra pain or damage. This participant came really far in the course, completing all the basic levels and the on-road cycle training skills as well. It was really lovely to cycle back together after the celebration ride, and see how much her confidence had grown.
What’s next for you: We’re really pleased to say that we’ve just received additional funding from CityConnect to launch a follow-on project to the one Leeds Community Foundation funded last year. It will be a bit different, as this time we’re making the opportunity to learn how to build up bicycles open to everyone. We’re running weekly volunteer sessions where you can come along and help repair bicycles that will be given to refugees and asylum seekers. Everyone is welcome to these sessions, even if you have no experience in bicycle maintenance!
To find out more or donate to The Leeds Fund visit www.theleedsfund.org.uk