Menzshed volunteer Simon Allen, second from left, and a group of Red Cross refugees work on one of the bikes at the Menzshed workshop in Richmond on Friday. Photo: Simon Bloomberg

Menzshed put refugees on their bikes

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Waimea Menzshed is making a real difference to the lives of Nelson refugees, thanks to a donation of bikes from NZ Post.

NZ Post bikes are decommissioned after five years and then given away to local community groups.  The groups chosen must have a genuine need for them, are required to re-paint them, and, following NZ Post tradition, keep them in good condition.

Menzshed co-ordinator Alan Kissell says that the project “is a great opportunity that just fell into place”. The Red Cross refugees were already coming to the Menzshed as part of a volunteer work experience scheme, but the donation of the bikes has completely changed the programme.

Menzshed member Simon Allen, who is leading the project, says that it was a real opportunity to add value to the refugees’ work experience.  “Each refugee gets to help take the bike apart, re-paint and re-assemble, learn how to maintain it, and then keep it,” he says.

“It helps with work experience, technical knowledge and with learning English terminology”.

Red Cross volunteer work experience supervisor Margo Ruhen says that the volunteer work experience programme is a new initiative with, an initial five intakes each year and each refugee doing a minimum of six weeks’ work. The current intake has refugees from Colombia, Bhutan and Myanmar and includes a metal worker, teacher, pharmacist, shop keeper and office worker.

Margo, who also runs the refugee driver training programme, says that most of the refugees don’t have any transportation, so this provides them with a way to get around and an opportunity for them to practice the road rules.