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“The whole drive back [to the workshop] I've been thinking about perspective,” reflects Donna McAleer, Executive Director of the Bicycle Collective, a community bicycle organization in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“About people who make this incredible journey to get to this country, under such unbelievable hardships. It makes me feel like what we're doing here makes a big difference.”
Donna has just arrived back at the Bicycle Collective workshop after delivering bikes to a refugee family who recently arrived to Salt Lake City. The morning of the delivery was the family’s 14th day in America. A little more than two weeks prior, the family was living in a refugee camp in Ethiopia. They had lived in the camp for five years after being forced to flee their home in Eritrea. Two of the children receiving bikes were born in the camp.
It’s a long way from the apartment complex where the family now lives in Utah.
Earlier that day when Donna stepped out of the delivery truck, two small children jumped up from the steps of the apartment building and ran directly into her arms. Their parents and other siblings were close behind.
The children didn't speak English and they’d never met Donna, but they knew she was there to help. And they knew they were getting their very first bikes. Everyone had huge smiles.
“It never gets old seeing the faces of kids and of the parents as they see us coming up with the truck and the bikes,” says Amy Nguyen Wiscombe, Volunteer and Program Coordinator with the Bicycle Collective. Amy has been with the Bicycle Collective for more than two years and helps guide what she calls “the life cycle of a bike”— from donation to refurbishment to gift.
The gifting of a bike just scratches the surface of the mission of the Bicycle Collective. Every person who receives a bike has access to the Collective’s dedicated volunteer crew who teach everything from bike maintenance to bike safety.
But the mission is much larger than just gifting bikes. At its heart, the organization hopes to transform a city by transforming individual lives.
“We want to promote transportation through bicycling,” says Donna. “And having a bicycle is really a lifeline. It is truly a means of mobility and transportation and independence.”
Witnessing the scene in the apartment complex parking lot, it’s easy to imagine Donna’s ambitions coming to life. One can imagine the bikes helping the children play, get to school and make new friends, helping the parents find those new jobs, and hopefully helping the family deepen their connection with their new community.
After the bike delivery the atmosphere at the workshop is charged – emotional and overwhelmingly positive.
“I want to make sure everybody in the Bicycle Collective gets to experience what I did today,” says Donna. “The volunteers, all the staff, all our board members, this is what we do, and to see that it gives somebody hope and a new life, it's priceless.”
USA for UNHCR is committed to supporting organizations like the Bicycle Collective as theywelcome resettled refugees to America.A grant to the Bicycle Collective will ensure 1,000 resettled refugees receive bikes.
How can you support organizations like the Bicycle Collective?
USA for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency supports the full journey of refugees. Not only do our donors help refugees in their greatest time of need, but their support builds awareness for resettled refugees living in the U.S. and the organizations that help them create meaningful connections. With your help, more refugees will have the opportunity to build a peaceful life and give their family a bright future.