Bike will make refugee's life easier
Joelle Kusimweray was 5 years old when her family had to flee their home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"Congo wasn't safe. There were wars going on, the government was trying to take boys to make them fight for the country," the 18-year-old said.
"My Dad said: 'We have boys'. My brothers! He wanted them to escape from that."
Her family travelled east to Uganda where they stayed in a refugee camp for almost five years.
"The life there, it really wasn't good at all."
After living in poor conditions for so long, they were eventually offered the chance to move to New Zealand in 2008 - a country they had never heard of.
"In Africa you kind of have to fight for yourself," she said.
"You can't get any support from anyone.
"You basically have to go there and find your own food, your own place to live. So coming to New Zealand is a really huge thing in my life.
"There are people left in Uganda in bad conditions, no food, no water."
They stayed at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre until they moved into their Pt England home.
Joelle has begun studying to be a nurse at the Manukau Institute of Technology and her siblings are in school.
Transport within the Pt England community will be a bit easier for Joelle and her siblings.
The family will receive one of the 30 bicycles from the Christmas Tree of Bikes, which was lit up on Auckland's waterfront over the holidays.
Organised by ChildFund, the tree represents one of the biggest obstacles for children of developing countries - how to get to and from school.
"It's going to help transport-wise as my two older brothers go to high school, and they have to bus every day. It is money saved," Joelle said.
Last year ChildFund collected more than 100 bikes, both whole ones and spare parts, used to construct the Christmas tree.
The bikes were stored at Blue Box Storage Onehunga free of charge.
Communications manager Kiri Carter says about 30 bikes are in good condition and will be invested back into Auckland's refugee community.
Leftover bike parts from the tree were donated to a church group to recycle.
Go to childfund.org.nz to donate bikes to children in developing countries. Email email@example.com to donate a bike to the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.
- East And Bays Courier