Support group Swindon Welcomes Ukraine has hit a milestone in a project aimed at helping Ukrainian visitors get out and about.
The organisation has issued the 175th bike that has been donated, repaired and issued to Ukrainians who have moved to Swindon - and more bikes are needed.
Swindon Welcomes Ukraine (SWU) was established in April of last year to support hosts and guests through the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, with the aim of helping to build a Ukrainian community as well as integrating.
One of the community’s key challenges was mobility and the need to get around the town to go to interviews, school or work.
One family asked committee vice-chair, Kris Talikowski, for a couple of bikes, and when this was shared on Facebook the project was born.
Kris said: “We had over 40 people offering their bikes for Ukrainians - it was fantastic.
"We then had to work out how to collect them all, get them repaired, make them safe and then issued out to the growing community.”
The team started by using the services of local bike shops such as Run and Repair, who were prepared to service some bikes for free or at cost. Once the number of donated bikes exceeded 20, the ability for shops to support the scheme tailed off as they had to focus on their own businesses.
The team secured a few small grants locally, such as Magic Little Grant from LocalGiving, with the assistance of Swindon Cycle Campaign, and a grant from Wiltshire Community Foundation.
With this and their own fundraising, the team decided to take control of the repairs themselves.
Treasurer and cyclist Dave Thrower, decided to become qualified. He said: “I attended a Cyctec Level 2 bike mechanics course so that I could service the bikes to an industry standard. That increased the amount we could repair ourselves and has enabled us to get to 175 bikes to date.
"The Pattern Church have been amazing as they donated their top floor for our bike repair shop and enabled us to store and work on 35 bikes at a time”.
Now the team has four volunteers working on the bike project, including two fully qualified mechanics. They are stocked up on the parts used on most bikes, such as cables, brake pads and inner tubes, which enable them to work on bikes quickly without waiting for parts.
It costs an average of around £65 to repair a bike and issue it alongside some safety equipment. So far grants and public donations have enabled the project to continue but the team are in need of more bikes and donations to keep the repairs going.
The SWU team have received 233 donated bikes, serviced 210 and issued 175 bikes. Even machines which cannot be repaired economically do not go to waste as some can be used for parts.
All bikes are issued alongside a helmet, lock and lights, plus a document about safe riding.
Committee chair Sofiia Volovyk said: "The operation has been a huge success and very rewarding. Our Ukrainian guests are extremely grateful to have independence and the means to get around socially or for school and work.
"There is no doubt that this has helped achieve the initial aims of building a community and allowing guests to integrate and contribute to the wider Swindon community.”
To donate a bike or make a financial donation to help the project, people can visit https://www.ukraineswindon.com/bikes
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