Valbai Keshra, a 78 year old retired nurse from Cardiff is full of joy because she is finally realising one of her childhood ambitions of learning how to ride a bike. Most people take riding a bike for granted but Valbai is among the numerous groups of people who are discovering the magic of cycling thanks to a £296,602 People and Places award to the Changing Gear project run by the Pedal Power charity.
Working throughout Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan and Rhondda Cynon Taf, Changing Gear aims to introduce groups of people to the benefits of cycling who would not normally cycle or exercise. The project is working with people with long term health conditions, women from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, people with mental health issues and older people to help them achieve the health and wellbeing goals that matter to them.
Originally from India, Valbai lived in Kenya for eighteen years before settling in Cardiff in 1968. Ever since she was a child she has always wanted to learn how to ride a bike but never had the opportunity. She heard about Changing Gear through another National Lottery Community Fund awarded project, Women Connect First.
“I didn’t receive much of an education during my childhood and I never went to school really. I could speak a little bit of English but I couldn’t read or write much so I’ve been learning properly over the last seven years. I didn’t have a chance to do much until I retired because I was so busy working and looking after children. I’ve taken every opportunity to learn as much as I can since then.
“I’ve always wanted to learn how to ride a bike as well and someone from Women Connect First told me about the Changing Gear project. After my 77th birthday last year, I decided to go for it because I think you are never too old to learn.
“The day before I came here, I told my son and grandson that I was going to learn how to ride a bike. ‘Don’t go’ they said, ‘it’s too dangerous for you’. But I wanted to learn and meet new people. I was doing exercise at home but I wanted to do something else outside in the fresh air.
“To think all these years that I’ve never learned to ride a bike. I’ve only had a couple of lessons but I was just absolutely thrilled after my first one and I look forward to coming here every time now.”
Valbai is now urging more women from Cardiff’s Indian community to take part in the project.
“I wish more of them could join me but the feeling I get is that many don’t like to do much outside of the family home, I don’t know what the barriers are. Maybe it’s a lack of confidence? I try and encourage them to come and join me every time I go to the temple. I love coming here because you get fresh air and it’s a way of becoming fit and healthy whilst meeting new people.
“This is one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
National Lottery Community Fund UK Board Member Natalie Campbell recently visited the Changing Gear project where she met staff and beneficiaries, and learned more about Valbai’s story.
To find out more about the Changing Gear project or if you know anyone who would like to be involved with the project, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02920 390 713
Find out about funding available in Wales by visiting www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/wales following @TNLComFundWales on Twitter or liking the Facebook page at The National Lottery Community Fund Wales.