For over two years, IRC Wichita has had a partnership with Bike Walk Wichita (BWW), a local non-profit committed to promoting safe cycling and walking for Wichita residents. BWW repairs used bicycles and then donates them to individuals in the community. Some of those fortunate enough to receive bicycles include refugees who have been resettled in Wichita. In addition to the bicycle, BWW provides instructional sessions, taught by BWW certified volunteers, about riding in the city, proper safety equipment, and appropriate bicycle etiquette. BWW volunteers are League Cycling Instructors, certified by the League of American Bicyclists, a national organization.
During the classes, IRC clients choose a bicycle. They can choose from an array of any refurbished bike that BWW has at the time. They are also provided with safety gear. Once the indoor safety class is complete, a short ride around town completes the fun. During these sessions, BWW also sits with clients and map out safe routes of travel, from home to IRC for example, or to their place of employment.
One afternoon, a new client Abdul traveled with Carey Hobart, a volunteer from BWW, to BWW to pick out bikes for he and his family. Along the way, Abdul began to describe his home in Afghanistan and the bicycle shop that he owned. In Afghanistan, Abdul began repairing bicycles in 2003. By 2006 he was proficient as a bicycle mechanic and moved to a downtown location, where he could work in the community with his brother and other malgari - meaning ‘friend’ in Pashto - who would also occasionally come by to help. In the same building, where he also worked as a carpenter. Abdul used both of these skills for the next eleven years in helping the U.S. Army in the community, as they needed.
While in Afghanistan, Abdul was motivated by supporting his family, Abdul chose to be a bike mechanic as it was something easy for him to learn and would provide him with an income. When Abdul’s children weren’t in school they would help him in the shop, bringing the tools for him and learning about bicycle repair. Abdul also built new bicycles from new parts and would sell these, in addition to used bicycles.
Upon arriving at BWW, and after taking in the array of bikes and tools, Abdul chose bikes for himself and his children. Then he noticed a bike wheel lying on the floor. Hobart explained some of the repair work that BWW does, and showed him the truing machine used to straighten bike rims. Abdul sat down comfortably in front of the machine and Carey gave him the tool he needed to work on the bicycle spokes. He measured and tweaked the spokes, and in less than 15 minutes, he had a straight bicycle wheel. Abdul was so excited about the bike shop that he has now volunteered to help repair bicycles.
The staff and clients of the IRC in Wichita are thankful to the volunteers and supporters of Bike Walk Wichita for their willingness to #StandWithRefugees and in making #RefugeesWelcome in Wichita.
For more information about Bike Walk Wichita please visit their website at: www.BikeWalkWichita.org.