Ambition Aspire Achieve provide programmes and experiences for young disadvantaged people in the Newham and East London area, including seaside trips, camping experiences, after-school activities and youth projects. Based in an area which is in the highest 10% of deprived areas in the country, most of the participants in their projects are aged between five and fifteen years and live in recognised poverty. Many also have developmental difficulties, such as autism, mental health conditions, and/or physical disabilities. As a result, they face multiple barriers to participating in sports and to owning bikes.
Ambition Aspire Achieve’s ‘Cycling in Canning Town’ project offers social education programmes to these young people using cycling as a medium. The project activities, in which forty local young people are currently involved, include training in bike maintenance and cycle confidence to help young people overcome their barriers to cycling, feel familiar with bikes and learn to ride, adjusting for their different stages and abilities.
The sessions are run every Saturday morning, and after school once a week for two hours during the summer months. The project is run at the Terence Brown Arc, in Hermit Road Park, which includes large indoor and outdoor spaces. Here the children can utilise a wide variety of adventure play features, a den building area, and sports, games and garden spaces.
The project provides children with opportunities to build self esteem and broaden their experience of cycling. Many of them develop skills and become confident, independent cyclists very quickly. Milan, who is 16 and autistic, always rejected his mother’s attempts to teach him to cycle. Today he is one of the best riders in the club. “Once he mounts on the bike, he doesn’t want to quit anymore,” said Paula, one of the staff members. Paula also commented: “What I most like about my work here is seeing this place full of life, and seeing young people, who are normally subjected to many difficulties, having fun!”
All staff members, including volunteers, are trained to work with people with disabilities. So far four volunteers are engaged in the programme, and the organisation aims to recruit more in the next years.
The organisation has a secure storage facility for its bikes, which include twenty bikes donated by the City of London Police and a small amount of recycled bikes. They are developing a relationship with Have Bike.
Cycling in Canning Town is promoted via a mix of community news sheets, websites, posters and stands at community festivals. They are trying to increase their network of agencies in order to secure more funding to advance and support their activities in the future, particularly in relation to purchasing specialised bikes suitable for people with disabilities.