In the refugee camp Nea Kavala one of the challenges for the residents, is the distance to the nearby town Polikastro. If they need anything, such as groceries, phone credit, medicine or to take the bus to Athens or Thessaloniki, this is where they need to go. It takes about one hour to reach by foot, and with no regular busses, walking is the only real option to reach Polikastro. One hour is a long time to walk if the sun is burning, if the rain is pouring or if you are carrying bags with groceries. Keeping people in a camp, in a distance from the town, could feel as a way of excluding people and make integrating into society harder.In the usual “Drop int the Ocean-style”, we decided to solve this challenge! Over the last couple of months we have been working on developing a bike rental system, to make Polikastro reachable.
Starting a bike rental service in a refugee camp is not a small project. We needed bikes. We needed helmets and lights. We needed a rental system that secures that the bikes are actually returned. The residents even need to know the traffic and the rules of biking in Greece. With the help from our great friends in the Get Shit Done-team we got the most important thing secured, the BIKES! They also came out to Nea Kavala and put up homemade bike racks painted in an ocean blue colour, they found a way to get us helmets, bike locks and bike lights and even brought us homemade traffic lights and road signs.
Next came the bike rental system. As we have an app which is already helping us keep track of our stock and how much we “sell” in our clothes market, Bart, our coordinator and the developer of this app, came up with the idea of integrating the bike rental system into the app itself. Voila! Now we have a part of the app which can print bike rental certificates and keep track of which bikes goes out, and when they are returned. It is just great! Our great long term volunteer Henry, who has been part of the brain team behind the project, developed a training for the residents. Everyone have to go through the training in order to obtain their bike rental certificate. The training even has a little test in the end to ensure that you have understood the road rules of Greece.
We have now had our first trainings and have started the actual rental service. The residents who have been through the training are happy to be able to borrow the bikes, and dutifully bring them back. Our next trainings already have a lot of people signed up, and we are excited to see that this project has started out very successfully.