An asylum seeker from Africa living in Huddersfield says a free bike given to him from a ‘green’ fund has transformed his life.
It means Fnan Okube Kidane, who fled here from Eritrea, can now help more asylum seekers arriving in the town.
When the former high school teacher arrived in December 2020 he had nothing and was helped by The Welcome Mentor programme set up in 2019 to help refugees, asylum seekers and migrants settle in Kirklees.
Programme coordinator Steffi Rogers said: “Asylum seekers and migrants are often vulnerable when placed in our communities as they often lack the language and support networks to help them access services and integrate in the community. This can leave them isolated.”
The support offered to Fnan during this time inspired him to become a volunteer for these projects offering translation, advice and reassurance to new arrivals. But the problem was getting to his appointments.
A community grant from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s CityConnect programme to Welcome Mentors working with Milnsbridge-based charity Streetbikes meant reconditioned bikes could be given to asylum seekers who need transport. Twenty bikes have been given out so far with a further 30 people waiting for a suitable bike to be ready.
Fnan said: “When I first started volunteering I was walking for miles and miles every day. I could only volunteer for one session per day as it took me so long to get there and back.
“Having this bike means I can volunteer more often at more places in Huddersfield. I meet lots of people who are in the same situation that I was and I like that I can help them the way I was helped.
“I couldn’t live my life as I do now without this bike. Getting it has made my new life easier and happier. Everyone who I welcome into Huddersfield wants one.”
The funding is from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and originates from national government, the Department for Transport’s City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement, who allocate it to the Combined Authority to spend as it sees fit.
The Combined Authority then chooses its objectives in line with the pledges West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin was elected on through the Mayor’s community grants programme.
Organisations can apply for individual grants of up to £5,000 and this money can be used for any project aimed at helping and encouraging people to walk or cycle more.
It’s all about tackling the climate emergency and encouraging people to use new cycle routes, making low-carbon journeys easier and more enjoyable.
Dozens of organisations across the region benefitted from funding last year – from bike loan projects to free training to help riders become more confident – with thousands taking part.
Since 2017 the community grants programme has awarded 106 organisations across West Yorkshire a total of more than £530,000 for schemes supporting cycling or walking.
This new wave of grants will involve a competitive application process with applications open from now until March 17.
Mayor Brabin said: “We’re kickstarting an active travel revolution in West Yorkshire. We are making walking and cycling the natural choice for shorter journeys.
“If you and your organisation have got ideas for ways to help people get moving in your area, please help us make them a reality with you by applying for a community grant.”
This is the sixth round of community grants funding from the Combined Authority to support grassroots organisations committed to cycling or walking. Last year 48 groups received grants and around 2,600 people took part in grant-funded activities.
Previous projects have ranged from pool bike and bike loan schemes, rides and walks for people who are socially isolated, free training to increase people’s confidence on two wheels and route planning and waymarking around local areas.
For more details on the community grants programme, as well as how to apply or request support with applying, visit the CityConnect website (https://www.cyclecityconnect.co.uk/get-inspired/our-work-with-communities/)
- Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.