Refurbished second-hand bikes are being handed out to Ukrainian refugees to give them the freedom to find jobs, get to work and feel part of their new communities.
South Gloucestershire Council has been collecting donated bikes, mending them and giving them new homes with those displaced by the war in Ukraine.
The Wheels to Work scheme aims to help refugees access training, volunteering and skills opportunities as well as attend English lessons, job interviews, and get to work.
The bikes are also proving invaluable in giving refugees the freedom to move around independently, helping them become better integrated within the community.
Wheels to Work has been developed under the Government’s Capability Fund to help unemployed and newly employed workers with transport to get to interviews, training and their workplace.
There are 300 Ukrainians now living in South Gloucestershire and Wheels to Work is just part of a range of support being provided to help them settle, to find work and to learn or improve their English language skills.
The Yaremenko family are among those benefitting from a new bike. Oleh, his wife Oksana and their three children; Vladislav, 12, Dmitro, 8, and Stanislav, 9 months, are staying with a host family in Rudgeway.
Oleh will use the bike to get to his IT job and Oksana will be able to get out of the house to explore the local area. She is hoping to go to community events to meet new people and improve her English.
Oksana said: “The bike is great; it is my only way to travel. I will be able to go out and go places.”
Vladislav, who goes to Marlwood School, said his family were very excited about having a bike to use.
He said: “It’s a nice bike, it is fun to ride. Mum hasn’t really been on a bike for years, so I am going to give her some lessons, she just needs some practice then she will be off!
“We love it here, we love everything about it, and now we can explore more by bike.”
Ian Clarke welcomed the Yaremenko’s to his family home in May as he wanted to give them the “security and safety they deserve.”
He said: “The council has been brilliant from our first assessment, and now this bike is just the icing on the cake.
“The bike is a brilliant idea. It’s going to be invaluable for the family to get around. It’s a rural location so they are somewhat housebound without any transport of their own. This bike is going to give them their freedom.”
The scheme has had 20 bikes donated so far. This includes donations from staff at Rolls Royce and those who dropped their unwanted bikes off at the Wickwar Games.
The council’s Dr Bike is checking the donated bikes to ensure they are roadworthy and in good working order, before distributing them along with a free lock and lights.
Giving refugee families access to a working bike is an important way of getting people settled into their lives here and settled into new jobs. It’s a healthy, sustainable and fun way to get around and explore new places.
The council, the government and our partners in the community are working hard to support those people who have arrived here fleeing the war.
The Wheels to Work scheme is also providing free bus tickets, free Voi e-scooter passes, cycle training and maintenance courses and loan bikes. The idea is not only to help financially at a difficult time, but also to establish habits in sustainable travel.