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Derbyshire housing trust bike project helps turn the wheels of fortune for former engineer

The wheels of fortune in the life of a former engineer from Derbyshire have been turned around thanks to a bike repair project run by award-winning Derventio Housing Trust.

Paul Hudson, 39, of Alfreton, is now working as a paid co-ordinator of volunteers for Bike Back Derby, where he uses his engineering skills in helping others refurbish bicycles, and in doing so supporting people to get fitter through cycling.

It’s a far cry from back in 2015 when Paul found himself unable to pay the rent after losing his job through poor mental health, which led to him being provided with accommodation by Derventio Housing Trust.

At his housing officer’s suggestion, Paul started attending Growing Lives, a day centre run by Derventio based in Ilkeston, which offers craft sessions, walks, gardening and other activities designed to boost wellbeing and offer new pathways.

Growing Lives has a large woodworking room where residents and others who use the service can get involved in repairing bikes – and it was here that Paul met and worked with Dave Sterland, who has been working with Derventio for many years.

The bike repair scheme involves refurbishing and making bikes using donated parts, so they can be used again.

Paul, who has now moved on to his own council property, said: “I used to like cycling and I’ve always been someone who likes taking things apart and finding out how they work.

“The thing is that all bikes are different. They’ll always be something where you think: ‘I’ve never seen that before’. I do like to do things with my hands.

“Derventio Housing Trust got me out of a very difficult situation where I was. From Growing Lives I went into volunteering and then from volunteering I went into this job – all from being on the bike project with Dave.”

Dave, who like Paul is also engineer trained, said he had been helping people who have been homeless by introducing them to repairing bikes ever since the origins of Derventio: a night shelter in Derby where its Boyer Street headquarters are now based.

He said: “I started the first bike repair shop when we were running the night shelter. I used to provide activities for people who accessed the service. We used to do fruit picking as well as repairing bikes. It’s all about providing someone with something different to what they expect in their normal life.”

For Paul, who himself doesn’t bother to drive but prefers to get around by bus, working with bikes also provides an environmental benefit, as well as being good exercise.

He said: “For short journeys when you don’t need to carry anything, bikes are great. A lot of people use cars for trips five minutes down the road. What’s the point?”

Dave added: “The Growing Lives project, and the bike repair scheme I used to run before it, shows how working with your hands can be very therapeutic for a lot of people. It’s also extremely useful to be able to repair a bike as it’s a great mode of transport too! We’ve helped hundreds of people over the years at Derventio and it’s always great to know that we’ve helped turn things around for people.”

Bike Back Derby is a community bicycle recycling initiative selling affordable bikes that have been refurbished by people from local prisons or by volunteers. The charity takes donations of unwanted bicycles from the public to be refurbished, and sold on or donated to help people benefit from cycling, particularly those on low incomes. The organisation also works with asylum seekers, providing and repairing bikes.

See www.derventiohousing.com/services/growing-lives/ for more on Growing Lives.

For more information, contact Lucy Stephens at Penguin PR on 0771 983 9446 or email lucy@penguinpr.co.uk.

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