Build-a-bike project to help refugees into employment

NDRC Build-a-Bike course
NDRC Build-a-Bike course


Searching for an idea to engage visitors of the Notre Dame Refugee Centre in a long-term scheme that would help them get into employment and learn new skills, the centre launched a Build-a-Bike project.

Early in 2010, the centre was awarded funding by the Community Cycling Fund for London to do this. Held at Bikeworks near Victoria Park, the Build-a-Bike course runs a weekly session over 6 weeks. Participants learn how to strip down a bike, assess and fix any parts, and put it back together.

Dubbed ‘Les Vélos de Notre Dame’, the project provides refugees from war-torn francophone countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon with an opportunity to learn skills which can translate into employment while also supplying them with a cheap means of transport.

The first course was attended by 10 male participants. Instructors Fabiano and Simon who are Portuguese and French speaking were able to facilitate a bike building course in a fun and constructive environment.

Some of the attendees already came equipped with a sound knowledge of bike maintenance and so were encouraged to mentor some of the less experienced participants.

At completion of the course, each participant gets to keep a bike they have returned to roadworthy condition. Westminster Council has kindly agreed to provide individuals from the project with cycle training to teach them all the necessary skills to become a confident and safe cyclist.

Currently, the Notre Dame Refugee Centre is selecting one participant to train as a bike mechanic who can then provide regular free bike checks at their drop-in centre in Leicester Square.