Sunday 30 July will be a day to remember for one JRS volunteer – Eva will be one of 25,000 people cycling 100 miles through London and Surrey for the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 2017. Eva is taking on the bigger challenge of fundraising for JRS UK along the way with an impressive target of £2,000. Here she talks to JRS about why she took on the challenge and how she’s feeling two weeks out..
Why are you cycling for JRS UK?
Some of my best early teachers at law school were Jesuits who taught their students to speak out and seek social justice. Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) with its core values of advocacy, service and accompaniment to refugees around the world, was introduced to me when I was working as a staff attorney at Catholic Charities Refugee Service, Archdiocese of New York. I was impressed by JRS and by its mandate to empower the most vulnerable in our society, without proselytising. When I moved to London, I was not qualified to work as a solicitor and I chose to volunteer at JRS UK instead, drawn by its human commitment to accompany and serve refugees, beyond the strict legal duty of giving them protection.
JRS UK runs a lively day centre for destitute asylum seekers and refugees of every faith or none. The day centre is a wonderful place to meet people from different backgrounds, and different countries, with different skill sets, and different aspirations. To help day centre visitors cope with the stresses of waiting for status, JRS UK also designs a variety of programmes. One I am heavily involved in is the Teach Refugee Women To Cycle programme, which Jesuit Refugee Service delivers in partnership with The Bike Project. Female refugees who have never cycled before, or may need to brush up on their skills, learn to ride on the roads of London, and graduate with a bicycle, a helmet and a bike lock!
How has the training been going?
Hmm. I have not cycled as much as I should, because I don’t like cycling in London’s heavy car traffic! I have tried to get my legs stronger and improve my heart rate with swim training at my local leisure centre.
What are your fundraising goals?
I hope to raise a minimum of 2,000 GBP. It would be great to fund more programmes for our day centre users, to stay healthy and positive, and help them participate and contribute to their new life in London.
Are you looking forward to the bike ride?
To tell you the truth, I am a little intimidated. I am not an amateur cyclist, just an ordinary cyclist with a Dutch bike which I use for groceries and appointments around London. I was born and raised in Flanders, which is flat as a pancake, so the Surrey hills do scare me! On the other hand, I am looking forward to cycle in beautiful countryside and in car free traffic.
What has been the most challenging aspect so far?
Being disciplined about getting my exercise in. And getting used to the second hand Raleigh Clubman Lady bicycle I purchased from The Bike Project. It is very different from riding an upright Dutch bike… I bought a new saddle to be comfortable for the day!
You can donate to support Eva’s fundraising through her JustGiving Page: www.justgiving.com/EvaBoenders
Eva is one of our regular volunteers supporting our refugee friends to learn to cycle, alongside our partners The Bike Project. To find out more about ways you can volunteer with JRS, visit our volunteering pages.