For some refugees in Texas, bicycles represented the only mode of transportation available. TCU’s Questa Terra Cultural Series recently incorporated a new event into its schedule, the Refugee Bike Project.
Sneha Antony, the project co-coordinator, said the program brought gently used bicycles to local refugee families.
“For many people, [a bicycle] is the only form of transportation they have,” Antony, a senior broadcast journalism major, said.
John Singleton, director of TCU International Student Services, said the project began a year ago when he started collecting used bikes for international students. TCU board members failed to approve the project, but students, staff and others donated between 80 and 100 bikes.
Eventually, Singleton said, he decided to give the bikes he collected to local refugees. He contacted Catholic Charities and Refugee Services of Texas, who helped with the project’s organization.
However, the project changed when Antony became involved, Singleton said.
Antony said she decided to take time off from work and school this past summer in order to enjoy some free time before graduation. She soon got tired of watching TV and sleeping in, so Antony said she called Singleton and asked about summer volunteer opportunities.
“He said, ‘This is perfect timing! I have a project I’ve been working on for months,’ and he told me about the bikes,” Antony said.
In addition to other expenses, the used bicycles needed costly repair before they were donated to refugee families, Antony said. While brainstorming ideas for a fundraiser with Singleton, Antony said she proposed a benefit concert that featured local music.
Soon, the Refugee Bike Project became a family project, Antony said. Her two brothers, Jeevan and Mathew, also became involved in organizing the benefit.
She said Mathew created and distributed ads and other press materials for the event, while Jeevan organized the benefit concert itself.
“I pretty much approached my favorite bands from Fort Worth and told them about the project,” Jeevan, a TCU alumnus, wrote in an e-mail. “Everyone seemed eager and excited to be a part of it, so it worked out really well.”
The benefit concert is set to take place on Dec. 2 at two local venues, Stay Wired Coffeehouse and The Cellar.
Jeevan, who graduated in May 2011, said six Texas-based bands signed up to perform for free, so all proceeds from cover charges go towards bicycle repairs, bicycle helmets and other equipment.
If students interested in the project want to do more than attend the concert, they can donate bicycles and safety gear, he said. The project also needs more volunteers with experience fixing bikes.
If the benefit concert meets fundraising needs, more than 200 refugee families could receive bicycles, he said.
The refugees will receive the bicycles in a separate event on Jan. 28.
The Refugee Bike Project provides individuals with more than just transportation, he said.
Jeevan said he remembered receiving his first tricycle and the happy childhood memories that followed.
“I hope we’re able to get all these bicycles fixed and reach out to as many families as we can,” he said. “Just knowing that all of us had something to do with the smile on someone else’s face is heartwarming.”
Refugee Bike Project
When: Dec. 2, 2011 at 9:45 p.m.
Where: The Cellar
Artists: The Quaker City Night Hawks, Secret Ghost Champion, Bird and Gator
2916 West Berry Street, Fort Worth, TX 76109-2306
Stay Wired Coffeehouse and Computer Service
Artists: Skeleton Coast, Collective Dreams, The Cleanup
2918 W Berry St.
Fort Worth, TX 76109
Cost: $10 for entry to both venues
Ages: 18+ only