By Taryn Arbeiter, Matching Grant Coordinator for Refugee and Immigration Services
During the first months after arriving in the United States, refugees often express a need for reliable transportation in order to attend English and employment classes, shop for groceries, visit friends, and commute to school and medical appointments. Even clients with a good grasp of the English language need a few months to prepare for and complete Georgia's driving test. It can take several months or even years for refugees to save enough money to buy a car.
In response to the call for better transportation, Lutheran Services of Georgia partnered with Sopo Bicycle Cooperative volunteer Patrick Davis to connect newly arrived refugees with refurbished bicycles. Sopo and LSG held two Saturday workshops at Sopo in Atlanta's Grant Park neighborhood. We opened the opportunity to 8 current clients, with a special focus on women and children.
Several LSG staff and volunteers volunteered their time for the workshops. Workshops included a short service project to help organize the Sopo bike shop and repair tire tubes. Volunteers assisted clients in cleaning and making adjustments to their refurbished bikes. Several volunteers and family members used a cul-de-sac nearby to teach two clients how to ride a bike. The workshops ended with a safety presentation, teaching clients about traffic laws and equipping them with helmets and bike lights. Clients were advised to purchase locks on their own as soon as possible.
At the end of the workshops, every participant found a bike to take home. Equally important, every client, volunteer, and staff person had the opportunity to practice English, share stories and laughter, and forge new, supportive relationships.
LSG hopes to offer this opportunity again by continuing this partnership quarterly. Our capacity to offer this program is limited in part due to a shortage of helmets and locks. LSG is seeking donations of bikes, helmets, and locks for refugees. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Taryn Arbeiter at email@example.com.