By EllieAna Hale
Della Lamb Community Services played an important role in the development of northeast Kansas City. Due to its deep presence in the Kansas City community through advocacy and service, Della Lamb has developed a network of services that aims to lift children and families out of poverty and towards a better quality of life and, ultimately, towards self-sufficiency.
More recently, a program focused on Refugee Resources and Services was implemented with the goal of providing strong and sustainable resources to all refugees in the Kansas City area.
A program that has been created within New Refugee Services, known as Bikes for Refugees, focuses on providing bicycles to more than 300 refugees in northeast Kansas City, including adults and children. , with the aim of creating sustainable and inclusive transport for all.
“With employment and school enrollment, you need transportation options,” said Cori Wallace, director of engagement at Della Lamb. “So we started getting requests for bikes…to run errands, go to school or just ride around the neighborhood to access resources, a bike is a really good resource to have.”
The service allows a local refugee to come and receive a bike upon request, as well as take advantage of donated resources such as helmets, bike locks and bike repair kits.
“Our goal is to provide a bicycle to every refugee who requests one for next year,” Wallace said. “It’s super easy to allow someone to access the neighborhood when they have a bike. A bicycle gives people more independence than a single transportation option can provide. »
Della Lamb has jumped in headfirst and is working to create a sustainable and accessible transportation option for refugees who might not have the chance to access and use it otherwise. The program also supports the fight against social isolation of refugees in the region by enabling a sense of community among access to transportation.
“One of the biggest issues facing refugees, and ultimately the health of the whole community, is the impact of social isolation,” Wallace said. “What we don’t need in Kansas City is more isolated, island communities that don’t provide bridges to the incredible resources this city has to offer. And I think on a meta level, what I’m hoping for is giving our customers ways to experience the outside world so that they feel less socially isolated.
The dispersal of bikes among the refugees opens up new opportunities and builds relationships with neighbors you might not otherwise see.
“A direct impact on the community is that it allows people to be part of the workforce,” Wallace said. “It gives people reliable transportation to get to school. Take their bike to the local convenience store. Bring their bike to the local grocery store. Bring their bike to the local library. All of these are critically important. Even with a free bus system, the bus does not go everywhere in the city.
By advocating individual independence, as well as social connections within the community itself, Della Lamb created a balance for refugees to feel more acclimated to the neighborhood, while finding a sense of belonging within the community. new community.
“We see it as a safer option, we see it as a chance for personal autonomy and independence, and that’s the core of our mission,” Wallace said.
On a more community-based action, Wallace is encouraging neighborhood volunteers to come out and help Della Lamb build these bikes, as well as ask for donations of child and adult helmets, locks and bike repair kits. .
“If you want to support a refugee community, this is a great way to do it,” Wallace said. “It’s an easy way to do it.”
Through the implementation of project goals that seek to provide that sense of self-sufficiency in transportation, a community can be found at the very center of it all.
“I’m thrilled to serve refugees in this way because transportation is such a big deal for them,” said Patrick McLaughlin, Della Lamb board member and involved neighbor in Pendleton Heights.
McLaughlin has a deep-rooted connection to the neighborhood and has thrown himself headlong into collaborating with the new Della Lamb initiative. His involvement in the initiative stems from his connection to the Northeast community at large, including the Church of the Resurrection and the Faith and Education Cohort with the Kauffman Foundation. Moreover, he is the neighbor and friend of many refugees in the region.
“I’ve worked with people on the fringes for 20 years and it’s always rewarding to equip people with the resources they need to be able to meet their own needs however they can,” McLaughlin said.
Through the Bikes for Refugees initiative, communities come together to provide resources and kindness to those who need it most.
“I think if you give people the ability to find community, they will,” Wallace said.
Learn more about Della Lamb at www.dellalamb.org.