Pre-Owned Bicycles For Newcomers
My First Bike
Immigrants and refugees leave home for man-made countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa or the United States for a variety of reasons. Others choose to go to the so-called ‘mother country’ like England, France or Spain.
Freedom is one of them, so providing pre-owned bicycles for newcomers can be one method of symbolizing it because the rider is in charge for the bike’s speed, twists and turns and stopping at pedestrian crossings or pets that materialize from nowhere.
Some newcomers had bicycles in their countries of origin. Others did not. Some families had one which was used by the extended family. The situation is different in North America and Europe where people talk fondly about ‘my first bicycle,’ because they've had several bikes since childhood.
Stigma Against Used Things
Labels sometimes cloud the issue. When I was growing up, mama said, ‘you’re so big, these jeans don’t fit you anymore. We’ll give them to your cousin.’ My aunts also gave me clothes from cousins older than I was.
We didn’t have labels like hand me downs, used clothing or cast offs. Kids in North America don’t want other kids to mock them so they refuse to wear them because they cannot respond to the question, ‘where did you buy it?’
Pre-owned seems to be a better word, a kinder word that explains the situation. Somebody used a car, a bicycle or winter boots, but they don’t need them anymore, but someone might.
Basements and garages in Canada and the U.S. have interesting objects that families no longer use. Bicycles are one of them.
In some cases, sons and daughters who owned them no longer live at home and have even forgotten about them. Maybe they even live in another part of the country or abroad.
These are the bicycles that can be of great use to newcomers, especially kids because they feel very insecure when they see kids in the new country zipping up and down streets and parks. Kids sometimes don’t say anything, but the look on their faces do. Longing.
Immigrants and refugees are not the same. There are immigrants that are accepted in Canada based on their bank balance. They are O.K. financially and can replace things they left behind.
Other immigrants come to start from scratch, based on their educational background or work experience and don’t have money to buy four bikes, if it’s a small family.
Families that have been in refugee camps can appreciate the total freedom bicycles invoke even more. We know very little about what happens in displacement camps because survivors don’t want to talk about it. They prefer not to open up old wounds.
Some people might like the idea of donating pre-owned bikes to immigrants and refugees but, it needs work. Of uttermost importance is that they are in good condition, tyres and all.
- · Organised community groups: bicycle clubs, churches, baseball teams, hockey players, office workers, department store workers, Starbucks or Tim Horton’s employees are some of the groups that can canvass for pre-owned bicycles within their circles. Such groups can raise more bikes than just one person, unless they have small change in the bank like Oprah Winfrey and Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani.
- · Immigrants or refugee non-profit organisations: Groups that want to donate bikes must target a particular section of the newcomer population, although the whole idea is for the family to bike together. Who is most in need? Is it kids between 5 and ten or their parents? The best answers will come from such organisations. They are easier to find because most of them get funding from the Canadian and provincial governments to help newcomers.
- · They in turn will approach families on their list to determine which will be interested in bikes. Once they sign up, these organisations tell donors how many bike sizes are needed.
- · Bike clubs or corporate sponsors must form committees to flesh out the idea for example, to determine where the bikes will be stored until the hand-over, transport to deliver them etc.
These are just examples of the game plan. People who really want to donate pre-owned bikes will devise strategies to suit their effort.
Winter Home Storage
Storage will be a problem because of costs. Donating groups should not find themselves renting warehouses to keep bikes until they are delivered to newcomers. An ideal situation would be for donors to keep them in their basements until pick-up.
Storage at home should be another factor. We talked about basements and garages earlier on but, that is for Canadians and Americans that own their homes. Renting stand-alone houses is an option, but an expensive one if you just arrived in a new country.
Bikes will be fun during the summer and autumn but keeping six bikes in a two or three bedroomed apartment in winter will be a problem, because extra space is needed for winter boots, snow suits and school books.
Safety is part of the package, that is why most cyclists in Canada wear helmets and kids have the cutest bike helmets.
Be prepared to spend $35 including tax on a new helmet but that can be steep for a family of six or more. That is when corporate sponsorship could kick in and donate new helmets.
No corporate logo on the helmets please. Companies can give out promotional items like T-shirts, water cups or bike shorts, something that is normally given to the general public.