For the Love of Bikes
Today I was helping on the cycle repair station at our distribution in Calais when a young Sudanese guy called Abu rode up on a distinctly battered, wonky-looking bike. He must have noticed me looking because he said, “You like it? I bought it today. One thousand Euro!”
I must have looked surprised because he burst out laughing. “Tour de France bike! But now I just fix,” he said.
Of course he hadn’t paid for the bike at all. As I helped him straighten the spokes, he explained that he had found it as a wreck weeks ago, and gradually he had fixed it up until it would actually go when you pedalled. It meant he could use it to go to different places where food and clothes were being distributed. Sometimes, he said, “I ride around. Just to see the place. I like to see different places.”
Bikes are a big deal to refugees who can get hold of them. You can’t overestimate how much of a refugee’s life involves long, hard walks – to find food, shelter or friends. So to be able to get to places more quickly and with less effort makes a world of difference; what might seem like a wonky bike becomes a luxury.
As so often, you have to admire the hard work, resourcefulness and dedication of the refugees as they make so much out of ordinary things. But that’s why our Cycle Repair station is so important – it provides tools and advice for people like Abu who are trying to mend what they have. We often have cyclists from the Uk among our volunteers, and to watch them helping the guys is really enjoyable; today one man helped Abu get his front wheel straight, and I wasn’t sure who was the happiest when it was fixed.
I saw Abu again at the end of the afternoon as he set off back to his tent – in fact he asked me if I wanted to buy his bike for a thousand euros. (I told him he needed it, so I couldn’t). I don’t want to sound sentimental but as he cycled off, I couldn’t help thinking that if the value was measured in love and care, Abu’s thousand euro bike would have been worth every cent.
To volunteer or donate go to care4calais.org