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Whether he is climbing steep hills in Colombia, training with his Venezuelan team, coasting down our spectacular mountains in Queenstown or commuting to work in Invercargill, Moises always loves the feeling biking brings him.
“I’ve always loved riding a bike. It’s healthy. I enjoy the view and the fresh air and it helps me forget about my worries,” says Moises.
Moises’ passion for cycling goes back to when he was 16 years old in Colombia when he had acquired a modest mountain bike. He picked up the mechanics of bicycles as he learnt to properly take it apart and put it back together. Later on, he started adding new pieces to improve it.
“After three years, I created a really good bike. Usually, bikes for competitions are very expensive, so I just made my own,” explains Moises.
From there, Moises started cycling competitively in Colombia, winning many mountain races in his early twenties. He then joined a professional cycling team in neighbouring Venezuela, where he spent nine years, before returning to Colombia.
His passion for cycling was put on hold when he became a refugee. His life was in danger, and he was forced to flee his home country to seek safety in Ecuador. Then, in February 2019, Moises, his wife and two daughters were resettled in New Zealand.
Moises and his family are among the 1,500 annual quota refugees who are offered settlement in New Zealand, providing them with a safe home and the opportunity to start a new life.
Life in Invercargill, one wheel at a time
As the primary provider of community refugee settlement in Aotearoa, New Zealand Red Cross has been supporting refugee-background people in Invercargill since the city started welcoming refugees in 2018.
The Red Cross team in Invercargill quickly identified transport as an issue for its newest residents, due to the lack of public transport in the city, so they started sourcing bikes for each newly arrived former refugee.
“Almost everyone who has arrived in Invercargill has received a bike, so that would be probably more than 140 bikes in total,” says Darren Frazer, New Zealand Red Cross Volunteer Programme Lead in Invercargill.
“Providing former refugees, especially children, with bikes is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. One day, you give them a bike; and then, you’ll just see them cycling around town. It gives them freedom and independence. It’s a great feeling when you see the bikes being used,” says Darren.
New Zealand Post, New Zealand Red Cross' long-term corporate partner, was immediately keen to support the bike initiative when they learnt about it because of the environmental benefits associated with reusing resources as well the social benefits it offers the former refugees.
Since supporting this programme in late 2019, New Zealand Post has gifted 25 old postie bikes, along with 40 new frames, new helmets, lock, pumps and maintenance tools.
“The bike programme has been great for New Zealand Post. Not only is it helping us to reduce waste in our supply chains, but we also get to see parts of old postie bikes bring joy to the former refugee community as refurbished new bicycles,” says Karen Mikaera, New Zealand Post Supply Chain Specialist.
When New Zealand Red Cross heard about Moises’ skills with bicycles, the team saw an opportunity for him to keep his passion alive in New Zealand through this project.
“I was very happy when Red Cross asked me to be involved with the bike programme because I really enjoy it and I really like to be able to help people,” shares Moises.
Moises spends a lot of his spare time upgrading New Zealand Post donated bikes, along with other bikes gifted by the wider community.
He explains: “The bikes are in good condition, but for the families’ convenience, we do some extra servicing such as fixing small parts, adding oil to the chains or changing the tyres.”
Through the funding from New Zealand Post, Moises also acquired new tools to do the maintenance on the bikes and ensure they are safe to ride. Since getting involved with Red Cross, Moises has refurbished more than 50 bicycles.
He has also conducted a workshop to teach former refugees how to ride their bikes safely and how to take good care of them.
“The bikes become the main mode of transportation for families. When you come here, you have nothing, so a bike is like a treasure,” says Moises.
“For some people, a bike is something small, but for us it isn’t. It allows us to see the country, see people and commute. Thank you to Red Cross and everyone involved – we are very grateful.”
If you are inspired by Moises’ story, here are some of the ways you can help: