"If you’re living in poverty, like most asylum seekers are, then a simple thing like a bicycle can have a massive impact on their lives."

Integration is about connecting people to their communities more efficiently and effectively, with the third sector playing a vital role in this. Third sector organisation, Bikes for Refugees (Scotland), are exemplary in this, given they champion the themes of integration to break down societal barriers, foster authentic relationships, work in partnership across sectors, and showcase the real power of the third sector in bringing about long-term change for minority groups in Scotland.

Steven McCluskey, founder and Chief Executive of the organisation, says that Bikes for Refugees utilise integrated ways of working to improve the lives of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants who have recently moved to Scotland by simply providing them with bicycles, enabling them to integrate more easily into society.

“We give bikes to people who are isolated, marginalised, and disadvantaged both socially and economically”, Steven says. “Bikes are a means to an end, and provide people with a way of exploring their new surroundings, linking with essential meetings and essential services, and act as a way of addressing isolation and loneliness through meeting new people.”

The success of the initiative has seen a huge rise in the number of people waiting to receive a bike from the organisation. In the UK, an asylum seeker living in full-board accommodation has an allowance of just £8 a week, which motivates Bikes for Refugees to harness the themes of integration to ensure that more and more people can break down these societal and economic barriers by having access to a bike.

“If you’re living in terrible poverty, like most asylum seekers are, then a simple thing like a bicycle can really have a massive impact on their lives”, Steven says. “At the moment we have a massive waiting list, so there’s massive demand, and that’s the challenge, with people having to wait to gain access to bikes.”

The organisation receives funding from the Scottish Refugee Council to support people’s resettlement and social inclusion, as well as funding to support their mental health in both Glasgow and Edinburgh, highlighting the importance of both the third sector and partnership working in bringing about meaningful change.

“I bumped into someone we gave a bike to in Glasgow Central recently and he was going up north on a bike trip for a fortnight!”, Steven adds. “Some people really embrace it, and for others, it’s a means to an end that helps them get around when they don’t have any money.”

In December 2023, the organisation reached a new milestone when they handed out their 2,500th bike. In achieving this, the organisation has shown the invaluable contribution of the third sector in being at the forefront of caring and compassionate change that allows for barriers to be overcome, valuable relationships to be forged, and people to be at the centre of their own lives.

“That’s 2,500 bikes that’ve been donated by communities and fixed up and refurbished by our hardworking and dedicated volunteers”, Steven says. “But more importantly, that’s 2,500 people who now have mobility and freedom of movement to make these important connections, meet new people, and hopefully, help to protect people’s mental health and wellbeing as well.”

If you would like to donate a bike to Bikes for Refugees, or learn more about their work, you can do so by visiting their website: https://www.bikesforrefugees.scot

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