More than a bicycle workshop ….
On Monday 8th April, the first six young men of the Amal – Belonging to Belfast, Bicycle workshop received their certificates at an award ceremony in Mediation Northern Ireland. This is a very exciting project, the result of a partnership between Belfast Bicycle workshop based in Lawrence Street Co-operative and Mediation NI’s Amal project.
The six participants who come from all parts of the globe - Belfast, Syria, Sudan, Kuwait and Western Sahara - have learned the basics of bicycle maintenance over the six weeks. This little corner of Belfast became their space for six Monday afternoons over March and April – with the expertise of Austen of Belfast Bicycle workshops and his love of bicycles and with the wise and humorous presence of Josh, Amal volunteer, these young men came to enjoy and look forward to their time and space in this corner of Belfast where they build a sense of belonging and connection.
This is a lot more than bicycle workshop. It is not only about bicycles it is hard to describe the growing feeling of camaraderie. The banter and sense of humour in Arabic or English got better each week as well as the bicycle mechanics. This is so small a project but so worthwhile. Josh.
I love bicycles and that matters. But, bicycles are just the way in to talk, to hear how different worldviews are existing in this corner of Belfast. Austen.
This is the question that the participants were asking us at the end of the graduation. Because we ourselves are path finding sometimes the answer to this is not so clear. But the way forward begins to appear when we have partners and colleagues. One participant has offered to be a volunteer. Hani is going to offer an introductory conversation course in Arabic in May / June for 5 weeks. Finn, the Belfast participant, is the first to sign up for this course.
Serendipitously, Denise and Stephanie of the South Belfast Roundtable (SBRT) are offering an accredited course over 4 sessions in Leadership Volunteering for members of ethnic minorities and have offered a few places to our members. All participants have signed up for this training. This will allow for more volunteering opportunities. In June, there is three day accredited training in Handling Life’s Conflicts which perhaps offers another follow on opportunity for developing leadership and cohesive community.
Meanwhile, after a review with Austen and Josh, and with the financial assistance of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), we are delighted to develop follow up training in National Standard Cycling for these 6 participants; this will help ensure safe cycling and provide an opportunity to explore parts of Belfast. There are possibilities of having a cycle on an evening each week over the summer. Moreover, with the funding from our generous MCC, we can run the same course again with another six young people in May and June. Places are at a premium since word has spread about this project, so there will be waiting list.
We thank Austen and Josh for their work on this and Nele who is patient and attentive on reception with all the Amal participants and inquirers.
Finally we thank our funders, Mennonite Central Committee.