Tjørnegårds school in Roskilde, close to Copenhagen, Denmark, offers a course in volunteering for their secondary students.
This course has been offered for three years now and it’s a great success. The students are asked to help non-profit organizations and one of the most popular activities is for the youngsters to be volunteer pilots for Cykling Uden Alder (Cycling Without Age).
Each Tuesday the students go in a group to the local nursing home, Kristiansminde, cycling with two trishaws. One student pedals while a resident from the nursing home and the other student sit side by side. This activity has created a lot of surprising and lasting relationships between generations, and it has also been an instrument of integration in the community.
Jakob Lentz , the teacher who came up with the idea, was surprised when he noticed a lot of the students who chose his course, were children of immigrants, and mostly boys. To his and others great joy, they have been welcomed into the nursing home and become friends with elderly people, who also had a lot of curiosity and questions for the boys about their background, language skills and wanted to know more about how their families came to Denmark. Sometimes when the young pedallers have finished riding, they play monopoly or chess with the residents of the nursing home, activities that build intergenerational and intercultural relationships.
One day when a group went out riding, they had a puncture. The old gentleman who was the passenger was so disappointed that the ride had to be cancelled. The young man sitting next to him promised they would come back the following week and make up for it. He later told me that they actually ride together each week but, as the resident
of the nursing home is suffering from dementia, he had forgotten all about that. These rides really give young people an insight into what it’s like to grow very old and it also stimulates their interpersonal skills and empathy.
The organization Foreningen Frie Fugle, wanted to highlight Jacob’s work with cycling and building bridges in his community. Jakob was honoured in 2018 with «Årets Frie Fugle” prize. This prize has been awarded since 1986 to people who show initiative and who dare to be different. He was given the price for having come up with a creative
course that promotes the cohesion of society and creates more cyclists and wind in the hair even for people who can’t cycle themselves anymore. Particularly the relationship between students from different ethnic backgrounds and the elderly residents of the nursing homes brings hope in a way that benefits all of society.
Pernille Bussone Vedersø