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Bridging Gaps through Cycling: How cycling project in Southern Germany helps with integration

Haruna Salim Mbusa's reflection on volunteering with the ADFC bike workshop in Aalen, Germany

When I first visited this project, my heart silently told me, "This is it. This is the place, for you." The initiative seemed to be closer to my heart than any other project I was getting involved in within Germany. I come from a background where belonging to a community is something we appreciate so much and everyone plays their role and responsibility as a part of the community. So, the fact many people (of diverse backgrounds) came to this workshop, made me think that this place was going to bring me closer to the community once again.

Photo 1: Salim at the ADFC bike workshop in Aalen, Germany

At the heart of my weekly activities, lies a project that is very close to my heart: the ADFC bike workshop in Aalen, South Germany. Every Wednesday, I volunteer at a bike workshop, an experience that has proven to be incredibly satisfying and fulfilling. The essence of the initiative lies in refurbishing, repairing and selling bicycles at very affordable prices, particularly targeting individuals with a migration background, students, refugees and those I would call, “low-income earners”. This project aims to eliminate economic barriers, making sustainable transportation accessible to a diverse range of people.

In a recent television interview, I had the opportunity to shed light on what this project, operated by the Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club (ADFC Aalen) means to me. As the project celebrated its remarkable 10-year journey in Aalen, I reflected on my involvement, the reasons behind my commitment, and the profound impact it has had on both individuals and the community.

What sets this project apart is its unwavering commitment to inclusivity. By providing reasonably priced bikes, especially for individuals from diverse backgrounds, the project facilitates practical transportation and opens doors to empowerment and inclusion. Witnessing and contributing (firsthand) to this project's impact has been a powerful reminder of the positive change that community initiatives like this can bring.

Owning a bicycle, for many in the community, signifies more than just a mode of transportation—it symbolises independence and acceptance. Every time I navigate the streets on my bike, I can't help but feel a sense of belonging, as if I am a senior German citizen and a landlord simultaneously - haha. The project's focus on affordability creates opportunities for low-income individuals to access education, employment, social service centres and other activities, fostering their integration into the community.

Beyond repairing and selling bikes, the workshop's provision of free bike riding lessons stands out as a rewarding aspect. These lessons not only impart practical skills but also serve as a platform for social interaction, breaking down cultural barriers and fostering a strong sense of community. Organising numerous bike tours during the summer further emphasised the workshop's role in creating enjoyable and enriching experiences for all.

My involvement in this project extends beyond the mechanical aspects of fixing bikes; it allows me to contribute to a larger initiative that builds bridges between people. The shared love for cycling becomes a universal language, transcending cultural and linguistic differences. Through my volunteer work, I have come to appreciate the transformative power of grassroots projects and the meaningful change they can bring about in society.

Photo 2: Salim at the ADFC bike workshop in Aalen, Germany

Volunteering at the bike workshop has deepened my appreciation for the potential impact of individual actions and grassroots efforts. My commitment to community engagement remains steadfast. As long as I am in Germany, the activities and projects that connect me with the community will continue to be ingrained in my heart, reinforcing the belief that simple acts, like fixing a bike, can contribute to building a more connected and understanding society.

Salim, born and raised in Kasese, Uganda, is a dedicated peacebuilder currently volunteering with Act for Transformation in Germany. His passion for positive change in communities shines through his role as a key member of the European Peace Jam Team.

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