1. Tell us a bit more about yourself (organisation)?
I’m a Health Promoter with Community and Public Health, a division of the Canterbury District Health Board. Health Promoters develop, support and advise on policy and projects that promote healthy living to avert preventable diseases, particularly within socially and economically disadvantaged communities. My work is mostly around active transport.
2. What are you doing? Or What is the primary focus of your research?
In my role I develop projects that specifically deliver active transport opportunities to people from the mental health, drug and alcohol and corrections sectors, all of which are over represented by Māori. These communities, along with Pacific peoples and former refugees, are the most transport disadvantaged in our society, and who also tend to have poorer health outcomes in all categories of preventable diseases.
3. What inspired you to do what you’re doing?
In 2009 I helped set up ICECycles (Inner City East Cycles), Christchurch’s first community bike workshop. People from the area could get free access to bike repair, and also free bikes. In the first 5 years over 1,000 bikes were donated, restored and given away. RAD (Recycle a Dunger) followed in 2013, which is based in the CBD, and more recently “LJ and Friends”, situated in the south west of the city, attempts to set up something in another low socioeconomic area of Christchurch, Hornby/ Hei Hei a, failed as communities were not willing to engage at that time. Volunteers available for that project instead formed “Pop Up fix Up”, a mobile team of mechanics who run free workshops in communities in need and who operate without having a physical base.
In 2020 a permanent site in Aranui/Wainoni, co-located with the Breezes Road Baptist Church, became available for community use. Consultation with church leaders lead to the agreement for the space to be used for the Aranui Bike Fix Up workshop. Funding was secured to buy 2 containers to house bikes, tools and parts. The coordinator, Steven Muir, was particularly interested in working with youth. Therefore the workshop times were set up as an after-school project (3-6pm on Thursdays).
4. Why did you choose to focus on this topic?
Community bike fix ups or bike kitchens, provide an essential service to help people on low or no incomes to start or keep on riding. They are not unique to Christchurch- it is a tried and true model throughout the world. All the main centres in New Zealand have some sort of community bike fix up, although not as many as in Christchurch!
For many socioeconomically disadvantaged people it is the lack of a safe, appropriate sized and comfortable bike in good working order that is their main barrier to cycling. Many have no means to buy a car, or, if they have one, struggle to keep it in a legal condition. Their other options are to bus or walk, with the attendant barriers those modes pose. So, without a realistic transport alternative, their access to education, employment and essential services such as health facilities is severely limited. Cycling can be fast, efficient, healthy, social and fun. It also enhances physical and mental wellbeing.
Community bike fix ups are essential to provide the wraparound support needed to keep a bike in good and comfortable condition in order for cycling to be a viable option for the financially disadvantaged. This is particularly important when the initial bike purchase is a cheap, low quality brand, which tend to deteriorate very quickly without frequent attention.
5. What made you decide to apply for an HealthCarePlus Grant for Good? (where did you hear about it)
I heard about the grant through my colleague, Janet Quigley who is/was on the Grants for Good Board. I sent her the brief about Aranui Bike Fix Up project and asked her opinion whether this was the sort of project that would be appropriate for the Board’s consideration. She confirmed it would be. We were concerned that the “nice to haves” of the project would be left unfunded, or that we would have to rely on volunteers (who were already putting in their time and energy) goodwill and financial generosity.
6. How was your experience in Appling for the grant?
It was refreshingly easy; there was no convoluted platform to log into and nor was it overly detailed.
7. How has funding from HealthCarePlus helped? (to advance your research)?
Most school children are hungry and tired after school and we felt that providing healthy kai would be a useful way to engage students, keep their energy levels up and be receptive to learning new skills (physically and mentally) and/or be an incentive to come. We’ve also used the funding to supply tools that students could earn from attending the workshops. After every 5 weeks they get to pick a tool, with the expectation that they can build up a set for use at home. Prior to this we found that many tools were disappearing, but with the opportunity to earn their own tools rates of theft have reduced.
8. What does this grant mean to you?
The funds support the rostered “church ladies” with the provision of afternoon tea. Having a pre-loaded card has been easy to use and equitable.
The tool-earning side of the project is a fun and interactive way for children to participate. Rather than just hanging around the perimeters, they are showing some work ethic and asking “what else can I work on?”
9. What would you say to others considering but hesitant in applying for a grant?
The Grants for Good Board are obviously quite broad-minded in the scope of projects they are seeking to help. So give it a go and you may well be successful no matter how “low tech” your project may appear.
10. What advice would you give to future Grants for Good applicants?
Ensure that your project meets the requirements and addresses the priorities of HealthCarePlus. This can prompt new ways of thinking about your strategy, and even encourage you to increase the ideological scope and enhance the delivery of it.
11. What are you hoping to achieve?
The pragmatic aim of the project is to help people in Aranui and Wainoni cycle more for physical health, mental wellbeing and transport reasons. It also teaches students and their whānau practical skills and use of tools that are transferable in other settings, whether in the future workforce or in the home.
But it has many other side benefits, most of them psychosocial: We’re building community in Aranui. For many years the Breezes Road Baptist Church had wondered how they can effectively reach out to the poor, the disadvantaged and to Māori whānau in their community. By having the Aranui Bike Fix up co-located with the church, the community has engaged with them. Trust is building and relationships are being established. Our next goal will be to employ a community support worker to work alongside those students and whānau who indicate they are receptive to receiving some guidance and support.
12. In what way will your project/course help make a positive impact on others?
The project is creating leaders. Some students are now able to teach others and, while we have no way of knowing whether these leadership skills are transferable to other settings, it is clear that attending the workshop children are maturing and gaining a sense of agency. We have a core of dedicated and consistent volunteers who are good adult role models. More importantly, our volunteers demonstrate to these students that they are worth investing time into.
If you are interested and want to know more this year's Grants for Good and how to apply for one then click here.