The Rotary Club of St. John’s East is continuing an initiative to provide transportation to people in need in the area.
In 2020, the club launched its Bike Project, which collects and restores bikes to donate to people in need. The project started as a way to keep people active during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, says Kristina Ennis, the club’s new vice-chairman.
“Back then, it was really hard to get your hands on gear for outdoor activities,” Ennis told CBC News in a recent interview.
“So in 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 out there and stay active.”
But what started as a pandemic project has grown into something much larger, Ennis said.
The group has collected more than 250 bikes since the project began and expects that number to increase this year. The Rotary Club has also started a partnership with the Association for New Canadians to donate bikes to newcomers, including newcomers from Ukraine.
Alice Keough, the association’s community connections coordinator, says access to transportation can make all the difference for newcomers looking to put down roots in their community.
“When people come here, there’s so much to learn and understand. And of course, one of them is the new city – your new environment and access to all these places,” said Keough.
“Having transportation provides that bit of autonomy that our newcomers need, want and desire to get around the city.”
Keough said the bikes can also alleviate some of the barriers newcomers may face when coming to the province, including the financial cost of obtaining a driver’s license or maintaining a vehicle.
“Gasoline for a vehicle, auto insurance, any vehicle maintenance that might be required, many of our newcomers just don’t have the financial means to maintain a vehicle for maybe the first six months, the year or more they’ve been here,” she said.
“There are definitely a number of barriers, and just having this small, two-wheeled mode of transportation removes those barriers.”
That freedom is something Ennis says he’s seen firsthand while delivering bikes to area kids and families.
“A bike allows them to do their shopping in a timely manner. It allows them to get a job… and depending on where someone’s accommodation is, they might not even have access to transport together,” she said.
“It could allow someone to get a job, which is crucial for them in building their life in Canada. It can allow a child to get to school on time. And the best thing. .. is that kids can participate with their friends in their neighborhoods and being included is huge.
The bikes will be picked up by the group until June.
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