New Zealand accepts 1,000 refugees a year, and many of the new inhabitants struggle to find a reliable form of transportation. Getting a driver’s license and acquiring a car can take years. So, a charity organisation working in the Wellington area came up with a solution.
“ReBicycle EkeRua collects donations of bikes and parts and ‘upcycles’ them into safe, practical commuter (or recreation!) bikes to give to people who can otherwise not afford them. We work closely with organisations such as Red Cross who help former refugees,” their Facebook page states.
Hilleke Townsend, co-founder of ReBicycle EkeRua, explained to the Guardian that many refugees never learn to ride a bicycle in their home country. Women in particular are disadvantaged because female cyclists can be frowned upon. Traditional long robes can also be an obstacle. So, ReBicycle EkeRua started to offer cycling courses.
Leila Rahimi, a refugee from Iran, is one of the people who benefited from them hugely. The 36-year-old was so shy she struggled to even leave the house after moving to New Zealand. A few months later, however, she was invited to join a local bike club and was given a second-hand bicycle by ReBicycle EkeRua. She took the bike riding course and within weeks, her life transformed.
“I was so, so depressed, and I was so down and so unhappy,” says Rahimi. “That bike totally changed my life, it gave me hope. I love that bike. I bike everywhere. I feel free now. I used to be so shy. But they don’t care about who I am; they just care I am human. They give you a good feeling that you are safe, finally.”
The bike riding courses are such a hit that ReBicycle EkeRua is looking for more volunteers. A well-deserved ‘hats off’ to New Zealand!