For refugees and asylum seekers, arriving in the UK is a moment of hope. But it’s also incredibly tough.
With an allowance of just £40.85 per week, and no right to work, everyday tasks turn into huge challenges. Language barriers, cost of transport, and poor access to essential services make everyday life a struggle - but the mental impact goes much, much further. Refugees and asylum seekers find themselves without communities, independence, or a sense of belonging, as they’re unable to work, settle, or contribute to society.
That’s where our charity partner The Bike Project comes in.
So, what's The Bike Project all about?
First up, The Bike Project gets refugees and asylum seekers on bikes. The charity teaches refugees and asylum seekers in the UK how to cycle, and provides bikes so they can access free, independent transport. With lessons that focus on confidence, road safety and even maintenance, the aim is for beneficiaries to leave with a free mode of transport, which gives them access to essential resources: healthcare, food banks, education resources and more.
But the charity aims for refugees to leave with more than just a knowledge of how to ride a bike.
Comfort is beneficiary who has risen up to become a leading figure in the charity, and she's living proof of how The Bike Project gives more than just a set of wheels. It provides independence, community, and a sense of ownership, to name just a few, for refugees and asylum seekers.
We’re honoured to be able to work with The Bike Project to help them support people like Comfort in building a new life in the UK.
Odunayo Comfort Adeyemi - or Comfort, as she’s known at The Bike Project - is a refugee, originally from Nigeria. After arriving in the UK, Comfort found herself at rock bottom. She was staying in a hostel, struggling to make ends meet, and her mental health was spiralling out of control.
Like so many refugees and asylum seekers, she wasn't allowed to work, and felt like she couldn't settle or contribute to society. She was living in limbo.
In her hostel, she spotted a leaflet for The Bike Project’s Pedal Power scheme. Comfort had never ridden a bike before, and was really drawn in by the promise of a free meal at a time when money and food was scarce. The cycling lesson was just an added extra. But The Bike Project turned into so much more...
After learning how to ride and maintain a bike as a beneficiary, Comfort began volunteering at Pedal Power sessions as an assistant cycling instructor. Here, she really found a sense of purpose by sharing her knowledge and experience with other refugees and asylum seekers.
"Being able to be there for all the women kept me going, even when I wanted to give up on myself", Comfort says. "Having that was like a support system for me."
She then become a fully qualified cycling instructor, and has since joined TBP’s board of trustees, taking on the pivotal role of Trustee with Lived Experience. As a Trustee, Comfort helps The Bike Project team ensure that refugee voices are front and centre as the charity grows.
By reflecting on her own journey, Comfort helps the team make sure their work is carefully tailored to the needs of the most vulnerable in society. She helps the charity reach more and more people like her; refugees and asylum seekers who just need a helping hand.
Comfort’s story shows just how The Bike Project is about more than bikes. In her words, it’s all about “empowering asylum seekers.” By teaching refugees and asylum seekers how to ride a bike, The Bike Project gives them so much more: independence, freedom, community, and a sense of self-worth.
In a society where asylum seekers aren't allowed to work, this lifeline can be make or break in helping them get on their feet in the UK. Comfort describes The Bike Project as a “lifesaving tool” for her, that’s given her a community where she feels like she belongs. The Bike Project has re-ignited her self-belief and made her “want to live life again”, she says.
"Having wings, you become empowered."
As well as being a core member of the charity team, Comfort is a talented artist, and visitors to The Bike Project's workshop in Deptford, East London, will notice a stunning piece of artwork created by Comfort featuring a winged cyclist.
After a year of being involved in the charity, Comfort had gone from “rock bottom”, to a much better place. The Bike Project had given her a “sense of ownership” and made her part of a community - she wanted to find a way to say thank you.
She didn't have any money to donate, so donated her creativity instead, expressing her gratitude through art. The winged cyclist is a metaphor for how The Bike Project gives freedom to its beneficiaries - and we're extremely proud that this is now featured on our Limited Edition The Bike Project Microfibres.
“The painting was done as an act of gratitude”, says Comfort. “The Bike Project makes the impossible possible for asylum seekers…they give us wings. Having wings, you become empowered."
We feel incredibly privileged to be able to feature Comfort’s work on our 2022 The Bike Project Microfibre. Available for a £4 donation with any Pace Series™ product, we’ll match your donation to double our impact on The Bike Project's life-changing work.