Italy – 12 March 2018

Pedal power: Bicycles offer young refugees a way to learn

A workshop brings together a diverse group of adolescents to build skills and community spirit

The bicycle is becoming much more than a way to get around. With the help of SOS Children’s Villages, young refugees and Italians in Crotone, Italy, are learning how to maintain and build bicycles through a programme designed to improve their life and career skills.
 
The bicycle mechanics course began in February for unaccompanied and separated children living at refugee settlements near the southern city, as well as children from the surrounding community. The course is divided into seven sessions aimed at giving adolescents the opportunity to learn skills and practice teamwork. The course teaches specialised mechanics and draws together participants who are from diverse cultures and backgrounds.
 
"I'm very interested in learning, because it can be important for my future," says a youth from Mali, one of the nine young participants in the course.
 
A boy from Crotone who joined the bicycle workshop says: "The practice is the part that I like. Even if there is something I cannot do, I try and try again and then I can do it."
 
Giuseppe Aiello, President of the Ciclofficina TR22o bicycle association in Crotone, says the course offers the young Italians and refugees an opportunity to learn skills, interact with the local community and have a good time.
 
 
"The goal is to let them have fun and learn new skills through a constructive approach. Moreover, the interaction between Italian children and the refugees is fundamental for our region,” Mr Aiello says.
A new personal journey
The bicycle can be the beginning of a new personal journey. To see a group of young people coming from different nations, who may not share a common language, helps them work together to achieve a common goal.
 
Skills-building is just part of what SOS Children’s Villages Italy does to help unaccompanied and separated children at refugee centres near Crotone.
 
“Our programme helps support the social integration of unaccompanied and separated children and young people in the area. We offer our support to those who flee from wars and persecution, and those who are forced to look to other countries to find better opportunities,” said Orso Muneghina, Head of the Emergency Response Unit for SOS Children’s Villages Italy.
 
More about our work in Italy
SOS Children’s Villages Italy began an emergency response programme in early 2017 focused on assisting unaccompanied and separated children, many of whom have endured dangerous journeys to reach Europe.
                               
Between 2015 and 2017, an estimated 300,000 minors arrived in Italy, nearly all of them unaccompanied or separated from their families. More than 6,000 refugees had crossed the Mediterranean to Italy by early February 2018, many of them arriving from West Africa.
 
SOS Italy has worked at 12 first-reception centres in the Crotone area, providing psychological and legal support, training and inter-cultural mediation services. So far, SOS Children’s Villages Italy has supported nearly 250 boys living at the refugee reception centres in southern Italy. The emergency programme has also trained 150 staff of other organisations in providing mental health and psychological support for unaccompanied refugee children and adolescents.
 

With the help of SOS Children’s Villages, young refugees and Italians in Crotone, Italy, are learning how to maintain and build bicycles through a programme designed to improve their life and career skills. Photos by Danilo Riolo

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