I joined the Buddy Project at the beginning of 2018, attending the January training session and soon getting stuck in with getting a house ready for a new family. This included putting up curtains and blinds, cleaning the property and generally making a welcoming place for the newly arriving Syrians. Knowing that the family were coming from the horrors of a refugee camp, the buddies involved did things like making beds, putting away toiletries and setting up the donated television in the hope that it would make their arrival that much easier.

For me, joining the Buddy Project was a way of taking action against the poisonous rhetoric that has surrounded the migrant refugee crisis, particularly in the UK media. The small but significant acts of kindness shown by the people I worked with to get that house ready represented exactly the action I wanted to take, and inspired me to get more involved with the Project.

It was the boys from this newly arrived family that first got me involved with BikeLab Hastings; I took them to the project to get bikes and was immediately inspired by what Tim and the rest of the crew were doing. On discovering that there would be special sessions starting for all families, I began to take on the role of facilitator, ensuring that all the families knew about the sessions and that the Buddy Project was kept updated with what was going on down at the BikeLab.

Seeing the families getting bikes has been amazing, especially when it comes to the young teenagers. Many of them have come from a bustling city environment, and adjusting to small town life is tough for them, especially when their public transport options can be somewhat limited! Having a bike has been a lifeline for some of them, and it’s really rewarding to know I’ve helped them in some way. Seeing Aziz begin to attend the open session as a volunteer mechanic has been particularly inspiring. He is still struggling to learn English, and most of his conversations take place in a combination of broken English and hand gestures, but he has become a part of the Bike Lab community. That integration with the local community is exactly what the Buddy Project is about.

I have learned so much being part of this Project. You can read the news, learn about the various crises across the word and have a handle on the political situation but none of that is a substitute for getting to know the people involved. I’ve learned more from them than I ever would had if I hadn’t joined the Project, and I encourage other people to do the same if you want to really understand and help.

I look forward to continuing with the Buddy Project, facilitating the involvement with BikeLab Hastings and branching out into fundraising activities in the future.