Charlie is a qualified cycle instructor and bike mechanic, working to support refugee women. As well as refurbishing bikes for the refugee and asylum community, she teaches cycle repair and basic maintenance skills.
Charlie Blair said…
“I built my first bike one summer in university to learn how they worked. I bought lots of incompatible parts off the internet but eventually got it going!
“After graduating I moved to Beijing, where I found a workshop that made bamboo bikes. I made my own and volunteered there helping others to assemble their bikes.
“When I moved back to London, after living abroad for three years, I wanted to volunteer again and searched for a local opportunity. I found The Bike Project.
“As well as refurbishing bikes for the refugee and asylum community, I quickly learnt that they also provided cycle training for their women beneficiaries.
“I had a background of both teaching and sports coaching during which I actively focused on recruiting more women, so I was immediately impassioned by this programme. I was lucky enough to go on to be employed by the charity who have sponsored my qualification as a cycle instructor and trained me to be a bike mechanic.
“I feel grateful everyday that I'm actively helping people enjoy the independence and enjoyment of cycling. Working with the charity has given me so many skills that I thought I never had and continues to stretch my potential.
I feel grateful everyday that I'm actively helping people enjoy the independence and enjoyment of cycling
“I have gained many valuable professional experiences and qualifications in such a short period of time. I am very appreciative of the charity’s commitment to seeing more diversity in the bike industry and I am a direct result of their desire to see more female mechanics.
“They have given me skills that I continue to share in the wider community and now I work with another charity at the weekend building bikes with young children and teenagers, as well as local Dr Bike workshops. In these workshops, the standout highlight has been both seeing, and being explicitly told by women, that they felt confident to have go at fixing the problem themselves under the guidance of another woman.
I have always loved teaching and watching people thrive with the new knowledge they have acquired. There’s no greater feeling than giving someone a bike, knowing how powerful both the mental and physical benefits of riding are. I feel that I, like our beneficiaries, feel far more capable and independent than I did before becoming involved. I love our Bike Project community and feel incredibly lucky to work with such caring, clever and strong beneficiaries, volunteers and colleagues.
Charlie was nominated for the 100 Women in Cycling by Nicola Hill, who said:
“Charlie is a lifelong cyclist and after living overseas she returned to the UK determined to contribute her skills to support her local community.
“She first qualified as an Instructor working for Cycle Confident and The Bike Project supporting refugee women. Not content to stop there (she is always looking to learn new skills and needs to understand exactly how things work), her tenacity has led her to become a bicycle mechanic.
“Charlie now leads cycle repairs for a local cycling hub in Clapham, teaches refugee women to cycle and carry out basic maintenance at Pedal Power in London and leads mechanic training sessions for The Bike Project every Thursday night to upskill and develop refugee and local volunteering talent.
“She's an inspiration in how far enthusiasm, dedication, and a tenacious attitude can take someone in pursuit of their passion.
“She's also incredibly welcoming, supportive and a great role model for all women looking to enter into this traditionally male-dominated profession.”