Bikes.Community Supports Sustainability, Multiculturalism and Healthy Living

A new program spearheaded at King George Secondary is blending sustainability, multiculturalism and bike mechanics into something particularly unique and special.

The Bikes.Community program is a partnership between the YMCA, the West End Resident's Association (WERA), Gordon Neighbourhood House, PEDAL and three West End VSB schools including King George Secondary, and  Lord Roberts and Elsie Roy Elementary. The program gives students, both Canadian born and newcomers, the opportunity to build intercultural communication skills and gain leadership experience through working together to repair recycled bikes. Each participant is assigned a bike, which they will be able to keep.

"This program is really an amazing example of community based partnership at its best," says King George Secondary Vice Principal Damian Gerrard Wilmann. "Bikes.Community is a perfect example of sustainability and environmental stewardship because everything we teach and do is green. Even the bikes we're using are recycled."

The program started this September thanks to funding from Welcome BC and the expertise of the program's partner organizations. 25 students with roots in roughly a dozen countries set out in the fall to fix up around 26 bikes that were collected by the school's community partners.

Every week the students participate in after school workshops on subjects like anti-racism, and anti-homophobia. Additionally, during Saturday workshops, students refit and fix the recycled bikes. As they clean the rusty chains, tune the brakes and adjust their ride's gears, students learn advanced bike mechanic skills and make new friends all at the same time.

Students say that the skills they've already learned will keep them away from the bike shop and save all the added expenses associated with it.  

As part of the final Bike Workshop in December, the students took their hand-tuned bike for a cruise around the West End and Downtown area as part of a program group ride. For many students, the group ride can be a great confidence builder.

"Bikes provide a real freedom. It gives students a huge sense of independence," says Jeanine Ball, the project coordinator of Bikes.Community. "This is a very motivated group and it's really neat to see all the friendships developing between students of different ages and backgrounds"

The next phase of the project will include the participants delivering presentations for their peers in other schools on what they have learned both about bicycles, and intercultural and intergenerational leadership.

Parents of the students in the project are also involved throughout the project, by participating in a diversity training day, and sharing meals together as a way of further building social networks, particularly for the newcomer families.

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