A wheelie good cause: Rotary Club continuing bike donation project for new Canadians

·2 min read
The Rotary Club of St. John's East is continuing its annual bike collection and restoration project in May and June. (blurAZ/Shutterstock - image credit)
The Rotary Club of St. John's East is continuing its annual bike collection and restoration project in May and June. (blurAZ/Shutterstock - image credit)
blurAZ/Shutterstock
blurAZ/Shutterstock

The Rotary Club of St. John's East is continuing an initiative to provide transportation to those in need in the region.

In 2020, the club launched its Bike Project, which collects and restores bicycles to donate to people who need them. The project began as a way to keep people active during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, says Kristina Ennis, the club's incoming vice-president.

"At the time, it was really difficult to get your hands on equipment for outdoor activities," Ennis told CBC News in a recent interview.

"So working with the community that we do, we wanted to find a way to give back and find ways to help those community members get outside and stay active."

But what started as a pandemic project has grown into something much larger, said Ennis.

Alex Kennedy/CBC
Alex Kennedy/CBC

The group has collected more than 250 bikes since the project's inception and expects that number to grow this year. The Rotary Club has also launched a partnership with the Association for New Canadians to give bicycles to newcomers, including recent arrivals from Ukraine.

Alice Keough, the association's community connections co-ordinator, says having access to transportation can make all the difference for newcomers looking to establish roots in their community.

"When people are arriving here, there's so much to learn and so much to figure out. And of course one of those is the new city — your new surroundings and getting to all these places," Keough said.

"Having a mode of transportation provides that bit of self-sufficiency that our newcomers are needing and wanting and desiring to get them around the city."

Keough said the bicycles can also alleviate some of the barriers that newcomers can face when they arrive in the province, including the financial cost that comes with getting a driver's licence or maintaining a vehicle.

Submitted by Alice Keough
Submitted by Alice Keough

"Gas for a vehicle, car insurance, any vehicle maintenance that might be required, a lot of our newcomers just don't have the finances to support a vehicle for maybe the first six months, year or more that they're here," she said.

"There's definitely a number of barriers, and just having that one little two-wheeled mode of transportation eliminates those barriers."

That freedom is something Ennis says she's seen first-hand in delivering bikes to children and families in the region.

"A bicycle allows them to get groceries in a timely manner. It allows them to find employment … and depending on where someone's housing ends up, they might not even have access to transit," she said.

"It could allow someone to have a job, which is crucial for them in building their life in Canada. It can allow a child the ability to get to school on time. And the best thing … is children being able to participate with their friends in their neighbourhoods. And being included is huge."

Bikes will be collected by the group through June.

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