News / Calgary

Calgary volunteers get Syrian refugees cycling safely

Two charitable organizations combine to help Syrians in need of reliable transport

Andy Tong, left, who runs the Bicycle Repair Hub, Gina Eaton, and Selena Gignac all played a role in making the first ever Bike Tune-Up-A-Thon a success.

Mathew Silver / Metro

Andy Tong, left, who runs the Bicycle Repair Hub, Gina Eaton, and Selena Gignac all played a role in making the first ever Bike Tune-Up-A-Thon a success.

Thanks to some Calgary volunteers, Syrian refugees will be cruising around the city on safe bicycles.

The Syrian Refugee Support Group and the Calgary Tool Library teamed up on Sunday to host the Bike Tune-Up-A-Thon, an event dedicated to transforming donated bicycles into reliable transportation for refugees.

The SRSG brought the bikes and the Calgary Tool Library brought the instruments, while bike experts converged at the Bridgeland-Riverside Community Association to put their talents towards a good cause.

Bikes have become a high priority for refugees without access to cars, as they are an important part of childhood, and allow parents to get to their new jobs or run errands.

According to Gina Eaton, a member of the refugee support group, there was an outpouring of support for refugees when they arrived in Calgary. People were bringing in truckloads of items including bikes, but the two-wheelers were becoming a safety issue.

She recalled seeing the back wheels wobble as some bikes rolled away.

Some of [the bikes] were not mechanically sound… I just wanted it to be a safer situation,” she said.

So Eaton started reaching out to mechanics to help fix up the bikes, and that’s when she was contacted by the general manager of the Calgary Tool Library, Nathan Gignac.

The Calgary Tool Library was founded in June of 2014 to undercut the cost of projects involving tools, and for Gignac, this project was the perfect opportunity to give back to the community.

At first, Eaton brought Gignac 40 bikes from her house, and his volunteers were able to get them to refugees. The Tune-Up-A-Thon is the next step in what looks to be a long lasting relationship.

And while Gignac is tasked with making sure that there are opportunities for his volunteers to have meaningful, rewarding experiences, he says the efforts have had a profound impact on him.

“This job has been incredibly rewarding for me and really healthy, and it has provided me opportunities to grow,” said Gignac.

You can donate your bicycles by contacting the Syrian Refugee Support Group on Facebook.

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