Help that makes the wheels go round

Spring 2020 marked five years of Wheely Tots supporting families and young people in Haringey and North Hackney to be healthy, confident and more resilient.  Normally carrying out hours of balance bike sessions for toddlers and families and engaging with many young people aged 11 to 18 through the youth-led initiative, Your Bike Project. Face-to-face sessions were running every weekend.

However, when all bike sessions in local parks, schools, youth clubs and other outdoor spaces had to stop with the Covid-19 crisis, the wheels certainly did not stop for Wheely Tots!

With the help of a £5,000 Haringey Giving grant, Wheely Tots was able to continue to support families to access cycling safely by delivering and mending bikes and helping families get out and about more. They also were able set up a successful outdoor foodbank on the Broadwater Farm Estate.

Wheely Tots outdoor food bank

We caught up with Wheely Tots CEO, David Pitcher

Hi David, how did Wheely Tots start?

From the very beginning it’s been about community development, social cohesion and we do it through the medium of cycling. I started the charity to help produce healthy, confident and resilient children. Our innovative approach all helps make the wheels go round literally…and figuratively! Over the years we’ve proved that positive micro interactions contribute to our local communities being more healthy, confident and resilient.

How has the way the charity works changed during the Covid-19 crisis?

Sessions had to stop. Initially things were very difficult and we quickly had to adapt and offer online sessions including Zoom calls and live social media updates to reach people.

Food in crates ready to be distributed

What’s been your biggest challenge?

Sadly at the start of lockdown, we had one of our storage units broken into with several bicycles being stolen and essential kit too. The bikes were being used by NHS and essential keyworkers at the time. This was just awful and so upsetting for everyone we so desperately wanted to help. So the timely grant from Haringey Giving was a validation of our hopes and dreams which meant that plans for our food bank went ahead. Our amazing team of volunteers distributed food to residents of Broadwater Farm with the Felix Project every week.

Food being delivered by the Felix Project

How was your experience applying for a grant from Haringey Giving?

The money came at a particularly difficult, but perfect time for us. It made an immediate impact and meant that the charity could go from nothing to being able to set up and run a weekly food bank with the Felix Project. It’s gone from strength to strength and is fully equipped and safely run thanks to the grant. It’s so much more than just a food bank and has also provided opportunities for people to come together and find support in many ways. It’s been stability for around 40 households where people have been able to connect with each other at the same time every Saturday. Grace and Laeticia came along to collect food for elderly relatives and ended up chatting. They are now getting involved - helping with the logistical side of things - and learning to ride bikes and gaining cycling confidence. 

People queuing to receive donated food at the food bank

What’s next?

As restrictions continue to ease, Your Bike Project is getting ready to continue safely and we are looking forward to getting young people together to enjoy and learn everything they need in relation to bikes and cycling. We operate in and around Woodberry Down, Haringey, Tottenham & Northumberland Park, some of the most diverse, disadvantaged but totally brilliant parts of London. What we do isn’t easy but we say that it’s just like learning to ride a bike!

How could people reading this help you?

The Saturday foodbank at Broadwater Farm is going to continue as numbers have steadily increased every week. We hope to find more funding for this.

Wheely Tots are running online sessions and some smaller face-to-face sessions. We also service bikes and lend out child or adult bikes too.

Check out the Wheely Tots Space Race

Wheely Tots logo

While the COVID-19 crisis is beginning to slow, there’s still more work to be done. Haringey Giving wants to keep support for local community response projects such as this going but we need the help of our Haringey Heroes. We’re currently seeking urgent donations so we can continue to fund projects and support Haringey’s most vulnerable people.

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