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A Gift of Mobility for Survivors

September 3, 2010

Benched Cyclist Gives Torture Survivors the Gift of Mobility

 Cynthia McArthur was a bike mechanic and an avid cyclist, until she was stricken by chronic fatigue syndrome. She can’t pedal across Europe the way she once did, but she’s turned her skills to a project that is giving the gift of mobility to dozens of torture survivors.
            Writing for Minnesota Public Radio’s online magazine (August 25, 2010), Madeleine Baran reports that McArthur has just been chosen as one of the recipients of a $10,000 McKnight Foundation award, given to Minnesota residents “who have demonstrated an exceptional personal commitment to helping others in their communities but who have received little or no public recognition.”
            Working with Minnesota’s Center for Victims of Torture, McArthur has established a volunteer program that donates the bicycles she repairs and reconditions (about fifty a year) to survivors through CVT’s “Bikes for Clients” program. Baran writes that McArthur “grew up with a passion for bicycling and had worked repairing bicycles in the 1970s,” when, as the cyclist says, “it was totally uncool for a girl to be a bike mechanic.”

“I had a lot of things happen to me when I was young that weren’t good,” she said. And I just remember saying, ‘I’ll never treat anybody like I’ve been treated.’ So it’s just been a conduit for me to exercise that value.”

McArthur gets information about individual survivors from CVT, and customizes the donated bikes to the client’s height, weight, and gender – with special attention to refurbishing “cool” bikes for children. Baran writes that one of the bikes McArthur worked on was “for a man who had arrived in Minneapolis penniless and without his family. He had been tortured because of his political beliefs and had spent 12 years in jail.” His social worker at CVT relayed this comment from him:

“When I ride a bike, I can ride north or south, east or west for as long as I want, and when I get tired I can lay in the grass and look at the sky.'”
            She paused. “I just went, ‘Wow, okay. Now I know why I do this,’ because isn’t that why all of us ride a bike? … It’s about the independence and the freedom and the control and the desire that you fulfill for yourself.”

(Photo above from the McKnight Foundation.)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 6, 2010 8:16 PM

    Very cool!!! Love the quotes, especially the last one about the importance of independence and control. Thanks!

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