For Student Volunteering Week 2023, we are celebrating STAR volunteers and their contribution to STAR volunteering projects across the UK. Joe shares his volunteering experience here!

Hi, I’m Joe and I’m one of the three coordinators of the Leeds STAR’s bike distribution programme. We collect and refurbish bikes in the Leeds area and donate them to local refugees and people seeking asylum, with the help of local organisations. We see this as really important work because it allows people to regain their freedom, integrate more into their communities, and support refugees and people seeking asylum on extremely low incomes who may not be able to afford public transport. 

At the beginning of term we used social media and attended our freshers fair to recruit new volunteers, and had a total of 55 applicants – way more than we expected. We’ve run training sessions at the Leeds Bike Mill for new volunteers, and tried to establish a regular group of volunteers who can develop their skills and gain confidence. We’re aiming to run around one or two sessions per week at the Leeds Uni Bike Hub to ensure volunteers get plenty of practice! 

Leeds Uni Bike Hub had some abandoned bikes that we were able to use to get the project up and running at the start of term, and in the future we intend to use bikes that are donated from people in the local area for refurbishment. Once our volunteers repair the bikes, we work with Leeds-based charity PAFRAS who help us to distribute them to refugees and people seeking asylum in our local community. With support from PAFRAS, so far we have been able to distribute refurbished bikes to 6 people in need!

 I’ve met a lot of good people through organising the project, and it helps keep my optimism despite the hurdles both we and our recipients are having to overcome. Of course, handing over the bikes is nice too – the recipients are always very grateful because it can really help improve their freedom and mobility. I also help out with the fundraising events that we do from time to time, and with that it’s really cool to see the community coming together to do something positive (and have a good time).

The Leeds STAR Bike Distribution programme relies on donations. If you, or someone you know, would like to donate unused bikes, safety equipment or other donations in reasonable condition in the Leeds area, or if you are a Leeds student and would like to get involved, please get in touch! You can email us at Leeds STAR at staratleeds@gmail.com

Finally, we would like to give thanks to a few people who have really helped in getting our project off the ground – we are so grateful to be able to continue this great work!

  • Leeds Uni Bike Hub, where Roman has helped us immensely
  • PAFRAS, our distribution partners, especially Chris and Ally
  • STAR National charity, especially Emily
  • Leeds Bike Mill
  • CycleNorth
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