Our CEO Laura Price recently visited CyclAbility (formerly WheelsForAll) who were one of the organisations to recently receive funding through the Connected Communities Fund.
On a sunny Tuesday morning I went along to CyclAbility’s ‘general’ session which is open to anyone who would like to try cycling by making use of their fantastic inclusive facilities. CyclAbility provide healthy outdoor cycling opportunities for a range of people including those with long term health conditions, people with learning difficulties, those recovering from illnesses and accidents and people wanting to learn to cycle to improve physical health and wellbeing.
There was a warm and welcoming atmosphere as volunteers busily arranged the wide range of cycles on the track, chatting to people as they arrived. A mix of regulars caught up with staff and volunteers and some apprehensive first-timers talked about what had brought them here and what they were hoping to get from the session. It was clear that some people had their favourite vehicle to take around the track – from shiny red trikes to the electric two-seater that I took for a spin with Josh from Active Oxfordshire to keep me company (if only all meetings could be that fun!). Tea, coffee and biscuits meant that people could enjoy a chat in-between cycling, or that carers could have a rest and a drink too.
Whilst working on some cycle repairs by the storage shelter, I chatted to volunteer ‘Sticky’ who told me that he’d been volunteering with CyclAbility for several years. He had been keen to find a rewarding volunteering role after retiring and he’d come across this opportunity through OCVA’s website Oxfordshire Volunteers.
Over by the tea and biscuits I met Phil who started coming to the sessions with his wife, as they both have MS and are active in their local MS Society. They came along to try it out to report back to their local group, but enjoyed it so much that they kept coming back. Phil loves the sense of empowerment that he gets from the sessions. The word empowerment really stuck with me, but the other words that came to me were joy and freedom – people enjoying the freedom of cycling in the safe accessible environment provided by the staff and volunteers was brilliant and joyful sight.
I came away from CyclAbility thinking what a great example it was of the voluntary sector meeting a need in the community with a sense of fun and joy and how important it is that we make sure that funding reaches initiatives like this, so that they can work alongside health and social care to give people choice and let them feel that sense of empowerment that Phil described so well.
The Connected Communities Fund, is being delivered in partnership by OCVA and Community First Oxfordshire and has been made available by Oxfordshire County Council.