Light bulb moment: Jem Stein of The Bike Project

The key inspiration in the life of the founder and director of the charity that refurbishes bikes and donates them to refugees

Jem Stein
Jem Stein

When I was at university, I mentored a number of refugees, and one of the biggest challenges they faced was travelling anywhere - they lived in Hounslow and the tube fare was very expensive. One of the first things I did for them was to buy them bikes, and all of a sudden they had a free, sustainable means to access education, healthcare, basic amenities, lawyers and Home Office appointments; as asylum seekers, they had only £36 a week to live on and were not allowed to find work.

When I graduated, I set the project up in my spare time, collected bikes, did them up and gave them away. Three-and-a-half years ago, I set it up as a permanent project.

I was a bit naive in the beginning. I remember chatting to my mum about doing The Bike Project and saying that it was just one project, how hard could it be? I suppose I didn't know quite how much it would dominate my life afterwards. It was something different - it really appealed to my "inner rebel", wanting to be and do something different.

I think I've grown a huge amount in terms of confidence and skills in every single way. I realised that the organisation's development depended on me, and something I've always taken seriously is the need to grow and develop my own skill sets for the project. It has completely dominated my life for the past three-and-a-half years, but I'm still standing and the project is still standing too.

That's the most important thing for me.


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