Refugees living in Merton are being offered free, refurbished bikes giving them a vital means of transport while improving their health and wellbeing.
Along with local charity Commonside Trust, Merton’s Polish Family Association has been supporting refugees from Ukraine since their arrival in the UK with a dedicated hub.
Through the Bike Shed project, Polish Family collects and recycles unwanted bikes then meticulously restore them to their former glory. Not only does the scheme provide a free way to get around, the bikes also promote an active lifestyle for physical and mental wellbeing.
Cycling is more than just a mode of transport; it’s a transformative experience that nurtures both body and mind.”
Slawek Szczepanski, CEO at the Polish Family Association said: “Cycling is more than just a mode of transport; it’s a transformative experience that nurtures both body and mind. Regular cycling strengthens muscles and improves overall fitness. It’s an accessible form of exercise that people of all ages and abilities can enjoy. Through our Bike Shed scheme, individuals are incorporating physical activity into their daily lives, promoting a healthier lifestyle for themselves and their families.”
He added: “Beyond the physical benefits, cycling has a profound impact on mental wellbeing. It reduces stress, anxiety and depression, promoting a positive outlook on life. Cycling also offers a sense of freedom and independence, empowering individuals to explore their surroundings, connect with nature, and engage with their community.”
Having my own transport to get me out and about has totally changed my life. I am now more independent and can drop into support centres and attend health appointments.”
Beatrice* came to Merton from Ukraine last year and is now an enthusiastic cyclist. She said: “Having my own transport to get me out and about has totally changed my life. I am now more independent and can drop into support centres and attend health appointments when I need to.”
Polish Family Association has also developed a scheme designed to equip refugees with essential skills to get into the UK jobs market.
Says Slawek: “We offer comprehensive support, including job search assistance, interview preparation and CV writing workshops. By enhancing people’s employability skills, we aim to boost their confidence and increase their chance of securing meaningful employment opportunities.
“These initiatives are part of our commitment, to not only meet the immediate needs of refugees, but also empower them with skills and resources, vital for their long-term success and independence in the UK. Together, we pedal towards a healthier, happier, and more sustainable future for our community.”
NHS South West London supports Polish Family Association with grant funding under its inequalities programme.
Read more about the Polish Family Association website.
*Beatrice is a pseudonym