Bikes to be collected for Columbian refugees

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Cromwell and Districts Presbyterian Church on Elspeth St will open its doors this weekend to donations of bikes for former Colombian refugees living in Invercargill.

Church member Les Wickham, of Cromwell, said the church would open on Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday from 1pm to 4pm for donations of bikes as well as kitchen utensils, bedding, sheets and blankets.

The items will be collected by the New Zealand Red Cross for distribution to refugees that have been settled in Invercargill.

The project was devised by New Zealand Red Cross volunteer team leader Darren Frazer, of Invercargill.

About 38 families (about 146 individuals) had settled in Invercargill, and 3 to 4 families were arriving every two months.

The stories were “pretty horrific” about their home country, rife with civil war, drug cartels and corruption, but the former refugees were settling well, getting jobs and adding to the community, Mr Frazer said.

The Red Cross was helping set up houses for families “so when they arrive they are ready to go”.

Because Invercargill was a reasonably flat city, bikes were useful for both adults and children.

“One of our former refugees was a professional cyclist in Columbia, so he will do servicing on the bikes to make sure when they go out they are all safe.”

The bikes were welcomed by the former refugee families, Mr Frazer said.

“They are incredibly grateful and appreciative of the assistance.

“It is the highlight of my job, honestly – giving a kid a bike who has never had one.”

For details about providing bikes and items phone the church office on (03) 445-3078 or office@cromchurch.co.nz