Features

Back on the up

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Wanstead UpCycles was rocked by theft last month when three bicycles were stolen from the home of the charity’s founder Paul Canal. But things are on the up, thanks to the kindness of friends and strangers

Devastated and furious. That’s how I felt after the despicable theft. But from the lowest of lows, Wanstead UpCycles has bounced back, thanks to the generosity of local residents and the kindness of strangers.

Within days of the theft, friends Paul and Kam hand-built a taller fence, securing my back garden. A press appeal led to a flood of new donations, with several new bicycles to replace the three stolen ones. Our local Redbridge Police also came up trumps by offering recovered stolen bicycles they have been unable to reunite with their owners.

Wanstead UpCycles started out during lockdown, rehoming donated bicycles to low-income families and selling on surplus bicycles to raise money for Haven House Children’s Hospice. Wanstead UpCycles is now supported by an enthusiastic team of local volunteers, including teacher Mark Fodder, structural engineer Thierry Suc and telecoms engineer Mick Terry, who have all been a huge support. Their enthusiasm and bicycle knowledge has been essential to our success.

Wanstead UpCycles even has its own engineering apprentice after local teenager Mawusi Jones volunteered to help fix the donated bicycles. Mawusi is simply fantastic. He is keen and knowledgeable; an absolute credit to his family and school.

I have been overwhelmed by Wanstead UpCycles’ journey over the last four months. I started out with a target of raising £1,000 for Haven House, whose own fundraising has been hit hard by the pandemic. We have smashed that target, and thanks to the kindness of local people have raised over £2,500 and have a new target of £4,000.

We have rehomed over a dozen bicycles to lower-income families, replaced a nurse’s stolen bike and a toddler’s stolen tricycle, and repaired and refurbished over 40 bicycles that would otherwise have been languishing in a shed or destined for scrap.

Wanstead UpCycles still has several smaller child’s bikes available, from 12” to 20”. There is a waiting list for larger bikes, from 24” to adult bikes, including road, mountain and hybrid bikes. There is also a big demand for ladies “pashley” style bikes.

Through Wanstead UpCycles, I have met some amazing new friends. I start every Saturday with fresh bagels Thierry cycles in from Brick Lane, and I have had tremendous fun.

One of the best parts is seeing the broad smile on a child’s face as they choose and then cycle, or wobble off, on their new bicycle. There are few things as uplifting as a truly happy child.

If you have a bike you don’t ride, consider supporting Wanstead UpCycles with a donation. If you need a bike, and for more information, visit wnstd.com/upcycles