Fixing refugees' bikes helps prisoners fix themselves

A bike may be the first taste of independence kids get.

They kick the stand, pump up the tyres and ride away. Each pump on the pedals is pushing them away from the parental nest and into the wide world.

For some of the prisoners at Auckland Prison at Paremoremo, the bikes are providing them with a fresh start.

For eight months, corrections officer Nick Bosworth has been salvaging damaged bikes and bringing them to the prison to be refurbished by prisoners.

Once the damaged bikes have been repaired, repainted and tested, they're sent from Paremoremo to the Wesley Community Centre where they are distributed by Earth Action Trust's Bike Kitchen - and many go to newly arrived refugees.

The programme is a collaboration between Earth Action Trust and Refugees As Survivors New Zealand, an organisation dedicated to supporting positive settlement of refugees in New Zealand. Since 2011, they've got more than 1000 refugees onto refurbished bikes.

For the prisoners, contributing to society from behind bars is rewarding, especially when they know their hard work is going to those who are also struggling.

"What they've been through is way more traumatic than what we do in here. We get fed three times a day, we get a bed, we're kept warm and clothed… a lot of them didn't even have that," one prisoner says.

For the refugees, the bikes represent much more than a just a mode of transport. It's a welcome gesture from their new home.

They don't know what the prisoners' past indiscretions are. What they do know is that their new country is giving them their first push in a new direction.

Acceptance and empathy can come from the most unlikely places - and as we learned, sometimes it comes from the people you least expect.


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