Working at MCC Refugee Services has opened my eyes to many things I take for granted, including bikes. I am embarrassed to say that since I got my driver’s license, my bicycle has been hanging up in my parents’ garage. However, bicycles reentered my life in full force when 25 refugees from MCC Refugee Services were given the opportunity to borrow bicycles from the Community Partner Bike Library program at Cycles for Change. I was excited to see the health and environmental benefits it would provide to newly arrived refugees and the freedom from dependence on bus schedules it would give them. But once the bicycles were distributed, I began to really understand what it means for refugees to have access to bicycles.
Marisol and her son Roberto* are Cuban parolees who arrived in Minnesota in 2011 and they both received bicycles.Marisol said that before she left Cuba she was a social studies teacher and used a bicycle almost exclusively for transportation. She explained that having a bike again means she does not have to depend on anyone else, “I can go anywhere now, without asking anyone else… I feel more free.” She explained that she uses her bicycle to “go to English class, to look for a job, to go everywhere!” One of her favorite bike destinations is the Spanish immersion school where she volunteers. Roberto spends many afternoons biking up and down their block. He also enjoys biking to the dollar store to buy coloring books, which he happily showed off.
This summer 25 refugees experienced the new freedom and opportunities available as a result of having their own bicycle. I am inspired by the work of Cycles for Change and cannot express enough my appreciation for their great work. To learn more about their programs visit www.cyclesforchange.org. And in case you are wondering, I took my bicycle out of the garage and out for a spin around the neighborhood too.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
Jayne is an Employment Resource Developer for MCC Refugee Services.