Cycling is brilliant for physical and mental wellbeing, but a bike charity is taking its benefits to another level – boosting the confidence of local teenagers.
Monty’s Bike Hub brings teenagers and adults together, giving them new skills, friendships and fresh opportunities as they fix donated bikes to sell on.
Monty’s works with teens who face a range of challenges, and staff have seen how their mental health improves when they are learning maintenance skills as volunteers at the charity.
“We use bikes to connect people from all walks of life through fixing bikes, going on rides together or just hanging out and drinking tea,” says Monty’s Bike Hub manager Josh Allen.
“We are mindful that young people don’t want to attend a course to fix bikes because that’s very much like school. So they’ll often come in if they have a problem with their own bike and then we’ll just chat as we work – and now we have a group of six junior mechanics who help other people.”
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But it’s not just the youngsters who are benefiting from Monty’s – one experienced bike mechanic worked wonders providing two-wheeled transport for key workers in lockdown: “Our oldest volunteer, David, is 78 and he’s almost like a full-time member of staff. His wife passed away a few years ago and he benefits massively from the community at Monty’s, and he’s amazing at fixing bikes.
“During lockdown we delivered bikes to his house and he fixed about 30, which we sold to key workers with 50 per cent off.”
Monty’s Bike Hub is only one of the many charities that have received funds from People’s Health Trust with money raised through The Health Lottery, which supports 3,200 grass roots projects across Britain. When you buy a Health Lottery ticket, you’re helping to raise much-needed funds for good causes like Monty’s, as well as being in with a chance of winning a cash prize. A whopping £157 million has been won so far, with over £120 million raised.
“We’re conscious of trying to be as sustainable as possible with our own income generation, but the money raised through The Health Lottery has allowed us to grow and show people we’re really good at what we do, particularly working with young people, who face many challenges,” says Josh.
“It’s given us the freedom to try our new kids’ and adults’ bike workshops and demonstrate the impact we can make. And we are very grateful to The Health Lottery for that.”
Josh loves how Southampton-based Monty’s connects people. “When you first have the young volunteers getting involved you spend time supporting them, but then they make friends and you notice them helping each other out. It’s so rewarding to see them supporting each other.
“And our adult bike rides are a super-fun way to connect. I love cycling, and seeing other people get excited about it too is great.”
Having the kids mix with older people at Monty’s also helps: “It’s good for the younger teenagers to have an adult they can be matey with, rather than talking to a teacher.”
Josh adds: “A lot of the kids lack the confidence to try new things, but we show them that they might make mistakes, and that’s OK, we’ll try again. That’s such an important life skill to learn.
“It’s been really great to have funding so we can make a difference, see people’s mental health improving, watch kids make friends and reduce the risk of anti-social behaviour.”
Why bikes are a force for good
Keeping kids away from crime, offering them role models to follow and arranging positive social activities – Monty’s does communities the power of good.
Youngsters learn more than bike repair skills from the older teenagers and adults at Monty’s. “A lot of the lads we work with don’t have many role models,” says Josh Allen, “so having those at Monty’s is important for them. There now seems to be less anti-social behaviour here and the younger teenagers have mentors and structure.
“And a new bike track we’re working on will hopefully be a way of reducing anti-social behaviour and crime by giving kids something fun and active to do in their neighbourhood.”
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