September 26, 2012

Youth are building bikes, community and confidence at EBW

The Community Bicycle Hub program participants. Photo: Stephanie Cooper.The Community Bicycle Hub participants and staff show off their handywork
(Photo: Stephanie Cooper)

By Parag Kapoor, Community Bicycle Hub Participant

Last June, I was in my guidance counsellor’s office trying to find something to do over the summer. I didn’t care what it was; I just wanted to do something that would occupy my time. I knew that I liked bicycles but couldn’t see how I could find a way to make that useful. But when my counsellor told me about the program at Evergreen Brick Works, I instantly lit up.

When I arrived on my first day, I was in awe of the entire place. It has a modern, very advanced, very efficient main building and at the same time I saw these rustic, authentic, old brick-style warehouses.

And then I met Shah Mohamed. He is the man who runs the show and I am indebted to him for all the time he spent not only educating us about bikes but also unlocking our ability to learn about ourselves.

He told us we were going to be the pioneers in building a better future for at-risk communities in Toronto. We would hold clinics, where we would take in bicycles from people in the communities and fix them. And instead of payment, we would simply ask with a smile for donations. We would also educate people about bike safety and hand out pamphlets so people would know to visit the Brick Works to fix their bicycles with their own two hands.

In eight weeks we learned how to fix and repair common issues with bikes. And as a bonus, we learned ways to make ourselves ready for future jobs. In the end we built up 16 usable bikes! That’s what I call success.

Blogger Parag working on the frame of a new tool rack. Photo: Shah Mohamed.Parag works on the frame of a new tool rack; another skill he learned in the program.
(Photo: Shah Mohamed)

But I can’t say we did this all by ourselves. Help was always available from the friendly bike mechanics Thomas, Alex and Kamal and the support team Roderick, Rosanne and Farley. They helped us build our friendships with one another and allowed us to capitalize on our strengths and overcome our weaknesses.

Evergreen Brick Works: I think of this place whenever I ride my bicycle. It has helped me in so many ways. You really have to go there—especially during the Saturday Farmers’ Market. They have excellent educational facilities, they hold exhibitions, they support many green initiatives in Toronto and they wish to preserve the natural surroundings that make Toronto a living, breathing city.

In addition, Evergreen is a charity. They get money from donations and very generous sponsors. Thanks to their help, programs like this one are possible. Thanks to everyone at EBW, I am able to say with pride that I love bicycles and I love to learn about people and bicycles.

Please keep the dream alive. Visit Evergreen Brick Works. Use their facilities. Maybe even donate a little. I guarantee you’ll go back home with a smile.


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