For this week’s Charitable Choices feature we spoke with Sophia Suderman, Executive Director of Our Community Bikes, to learn more about them. Our Community Bikes aim is to oppose discrimination, boost individual communities and expand community borders, all through the use of the bicycle!
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
At Our Community Bikes, we use the bicycle as a tool for social change to combat oppression, increase individual opportunities and expand community boundaries. We do this by providing refurbished bicycles and education in mechanical skills to empower people and enable their access to community services and opportunities.
What problem does it aim to solve?
Our Community Bikes believes in a fair and just society that acknowledges and accounts for the systemic imbalances that have existed in the past – one where everyone has equal access to sustainable transportation, employment and opportunities to build new skills, confidence and community.
When did you start/join it?
I started working with Our Community Bikes in the winter of 2017.
What made you want to get involved?
Bikes have been a major part of my life since my early 20s. I’ve personally experienced how empowering it is to have a bicycle and the skills to maintain it. I was really hooked after riding from Abbotsford, BC to La Paz, Mexico in the fall of 2012.
What was the situation like when you started?
We were in a great position having been established in the community for 25 years with a great team. We were offering Womens Trans Queer programming, DIY rentals from our non-profit shop, and youth Bike Club regularly. We were giving away about 80 free bikes a year to people facing financial barriers along with a handful of free repair clinics.
How has it changed since?
In spite of industry shortages and challenges in receiving bike donations, we have dramatically increased the number of bikes and services that we provide for free to people facing financial barriers. Last year we were able to give away 190 bikes, and we are now offering regular repair clinics 2 x a week out of Oppenheimer Park. We have partnered with the YWCA to provide bicycle mechanics training to youth facing barriers and are able to offer a number of opportunities for work placements and experience.
What more needs to be done?
There are still many people in Metro Vancouver in need of transportation equity. Our waitlist for bikes continues to grow, and our request for program partnerships is increasing as does demand at our free 2x weekly repair clinics on the Downtown Eastside.
How can our readers help?
We are always looking for donations of bikes, parts, accessories, and tools. Host a bike drive for us through your work or in your neighbourhood. That bike that is collecting dust in your garage can be a life changing tool for someone in need of sustainable transportation.
Do you have any events coming up?
We have access nights for Womens Trans and Queer identifying folks on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month and often includes workshops and DIY stands, Youth Bike Club every Tuesday evening, and will be starting deaf access programming next month!
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity/non-profit that you love?
Vancouver Fruit Tree Project