Every year, over 27,000 bicycles are abandoned in London. Most are turned into scrap metal but, thanks to a former Habonim Dror member, some are now being salvaged as part of a scheme to help refugees.
Twenty-five-year-old Jem Stein runs The Bike Project — a group which collects abandoned bikes from around London, fixes them at a workshop in Hackney and donates them to a drop-in centre for asylum-seekers.
He relies on police and councils to report abandoned machines. Since the project started, he and his team of volunteers have repaired over 300 bikes.
Mr Stein was inspired by two brothers from Darfur who he mentored at university. The brothers — who had sought refuge in the UK after their parents were killed — lived on the outskirts of London and could not afford to use public transport. Mr Stein, an enthusiastic cyclist himself, found them two bikes which, he said, “changed their lives”.
Asylum-seekers also come to the workshop and fix their own bikes, allowing them to develop skills and a sense of self-worth, according to Mr Stein.
“These people come from terrible circumstances. Fixing the bikes can feel quite empowering and offers a real sense of hope,” he said.