The diversity of youth in our programs is striking. They come from many different countries, celebrate different religions and speak different languages. Each of our 250 participants a year in Bike Club has a unique story to share and provides a beautiful mosaic of cultures to our programs.
While they are so very different, there is one important and prevailing outcome they share with us as a result of their participation in our Bike Club program– a sense of belonging.
Without fail, at Bike Clubs across the city, over the five years I’ve been at Two Wheel View, our participants tell us that they’ve found a community they feel apart of. This answer is consistently their favourite part of Bike Club, over and above receiving the bicycle, lock and helmet.
Last week, a tearful dad told us just how much Bike Club meant to his son. This family came to Canada as refugees, their story one of great perseverance that almost ended in the loss of their father. It’s hard to imagine this cheerful, enthusiastic boy facing the things he’s seen in his short lifetime. He told us that his son now feels that he belongs here. That he has developed solid friendships and learned practical skills. He shared that his son talks of nothing else on Thursday evenings when he comes home from Bike Club. At the age of 13, his son now has his first bicycle and will spend the summer of 2016 learning to ride and exploring their new home.
For another of our youth, Bike Club became a place where he could express himself and discover skills he didn’t know he possessed. You could instantly tell that Nathan had been dealt a rough hand by life. Withdrawn, sullen and unfocussed, for the first few weeks he rarely participated in our discussion circles. On the final day, he volunteered to start our closing circle – a first for Nathan. He told us that he would miss Bike Club each week and that it was the highlight of his week. He truly appreciated the time the facilitators took to be there and how much he loved his new-to-him bike.
As one of our participants at a recent graduation said,“I’m going to really miss this club. I’m probably going to come next week, totally forget that it’s over and be really sad. But I’m glad it happened.”
They may earn a bike in Bike Club and ride it around for a couple of years but it’s the sense of belonging they find in our programs that they hopefully carry around for a lifetime.