Fleeing their home in Kyiv after the Russian invasion, Tetiana Nykyforuk, Yan Pomerantsev and their daughter arrived in Houston about four months ago after they were admitted to the United States through the Biden administration’s Uniting for Ukraine program.
As they settled into an apartment chosen for its proximity to West University Elementary School, Tetiana (who goes by Tanya) searched for bikes that would enable them to accompany their daughter to school and explore the city. Tanya reached out to Freewheels after learning about the bike program for refugees from a Facebook friend.
On Nov. 12, they took a Metro bus to pick up used bikes that had been cleaned and repaired by Freewheels volunteers. After final adjustments by Freewheels volunteer David West and a photo with the Freewheels team, they pedaled off to explore.
Although they are meeting people in Houston and learning more about the city, Yan said they are eager to receive their work authorizations. “It’s strange not to work,” he said.
Freewheels bikes enable refugees to get to work and school, support their families and discover the many opportunities available in Houston.
Bikes for 275 refugees in 2022
Tanya and Yan are the first Ukrainian refugees to receive bikes from Freewheels. The community bike program provided bikes to 275 refugees in the first 10 months of 2022, almost all people who fled the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.
Freewheels also provided bikes to 42 veterans emerging from homelessness, 44 fifth- and sixth-graders who attend Klentzman Intermediate School in Alief ISD and 22 other people referred by their case managers at other nonprofits and social service agencies. Freewheels has already doubled its 2021 distributions.
Our ability to continue to grow in mission and provide more people with bikes will depend on our ability to attract more volunteers who share our commitment and enjoy participating in our workdays. Please read more about volunteering and sign up for a shift at https://freewheelshouston.org/volunteer-at-freewheels/.
We also relies on bike donations and continued community financial support that helps pay for tubes, tires and other bike parts and ensure that we can continue to work in our well-equipped shop in the Gulfton area. Please consider making a donation.
Tanya and Yan said they plan to tell other Ukrainians in Houston about Freewheels. Our volunteers are working on bikes every weekend to fulfill requests received every week.