Young prisoners say charity bike scheme teaches them new skills

  |  Published: Aug 5th 2016

Young prisoners have praised a charity project in which they repair bicycles to raise funds to help patients at South Bucks Hospice.

About ten young men at HM Young Offenders’ Institute in Aylesbury work five days a week fixing up old cycles which are then sent to Hospice shops for resale.

The prisoners, who are instructed by a specialist officer, learn various skills and techniques which they hope will help them find jobs when they are released.

Several spoke warmly about the project during a visit to their workshop by Hospice Chief Executive Officer Jo Woolf.

Michael, 19, who has been involved in the scheme for around three months, said: “It keeps me out of the cell. It keeps me active. I have learnt a lot since I have been here, and it feels good to be helping the charity.”

He said he would probably try to continue this type of work on the outside if he could continue to learn more and develop new skills.

“We are giving them back a lot of bikes and they tell us they have sold a lot of them – it’s a good feeling.”

The prisoners repair about 15 bicycles a week. They are then taken to the re-use shops at the Household Waste Recycling Centres at either High Heavens in High Wycombe or Aston Clinton.

The Hospice estimates that 87 cycles have been sold to the public in the last four months, raising more than £6,300 for patients. Business peaked in April when 29 bikes were sold to the public during Easter, raising £2,238 in that period alone.

Another prisoner – Albert, 21 – spoke of how he became involved in the project just over a year ago after seeing a leaflet on a noticeboard.

“I was bored and I thought let me see what this is about and I applied for it,” he said. “I have learnt a lot of skills, such as how to service bikes and how to look at problems.”

He said the project helped him focus on what was important because it was a good feeling to know he was helping people who may not have long to live.

“They are trying to get their best out of their life. I have a life and have got to appreciate it and we have got to do our bit.

“I am in prison but I still have a life, but their life is coming to an end.”

Yahya, 20, has been on the project for about a year. He explained: “We break the bike apart, clean it up and if is broken, repair it, change the parts and put it back together. I want to do something with engineering, but I am doing this for charity. It feels good to do it for charity, and we get to come out of our cells.”

Philip Abayateye, the specialist instructional officer, said: “The bicycles are brought in for the charity and we look at the condition to see if they are fixable or not. We recondition those that are suitable and make sure they are fit for purpose. There are quality and safety checks made before they go out.”

He said the prisoners learn a lot of skills in terms of bicycle repair and managing resources.

Laura Boyle, Industries Manager at the prison, said: “We teach employability skills and to respect a working environment, especially as some of these young men haven’t worked prior to coming to prison. We help them to understand not only what skills they need to obtain a job, but more importantly, the skills they need to keep it. We need to provide more opportunities like this, ensuring our young men are purposefully engaged.

“When you explain to them that this work ultimately funds a nurse for the hospice, you see it click and they know they are making a difference.”

The old bicycles are donated by the public and Thames Valley Police from lost property.         

Jo Woolf, CEO of the Hospice, said: “Whenever I visit the workshop, I am so impressed with the commitment given by everyone involved in this project. I am heartened to see how this scheme not only benefits our patients but also helps the young prisoners in this way.”  

South Bucks Hospice is appealing for unwanted bikes to be donated to the hospice’s ReUse sites based in Aston Clinton and High Wycombe. The refurbished bikes are then sold to go towards supporting people with life limiting illnesses. You can donate your old bikes at the Aston Clinton and High Wycombe Household Waste and Recycling Centres, or call them on 01296 632766. 

Go to: www.sbh.org.uk

bikes at the Aston Clinton ReUse site
Bikes at the Aston Clinton ReUse site
Jo Woolf is pictured with the Instructional Officer Philip Abayateye
Jo Woolf is pictured with the Instructional Officer Philip Abayateye
Prisoner working on a bike
Prisoner working on a bike
Sue Rance is the Manager of the Aston Clinton ReUse site
Sue Rance is the Manager of the Aston Clinton ReUse site
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