Riding bikes in the summertime has to be one of the most quintessential childhood experiences in Minnesota, and a new partnership between Refugee Services Mankato and Key City Bikes opened up that opportunity for Somali children in Mankato.
Key City Bikes is a local non-profit with a variety of programs and a strong reputation in the community. Among other things, they are known as a donation site for used bikes, which they then fix and make available to community members. They also host an annual Earn-a-Bike project (http://keycitybike.org/get/earn-a-bike/) where 14-20 year olds have the opportunity to learn about bike maintenance and earn their own bike and accessories at the completion of the program.
When there were a few openings left for their spring session, Key City Bikes reached out to Refugee Services Mankato to see if any families we knew might be interested in participating. Community Navigator Jaffer Mohamud reached out to some middle school Somali youth we were connected to and filled the remaining 4 slots immediately with enthusiastic boys.
As participants in the Earn-a-Bike program, the boys attended 4 substantive sessions where they learned about bike maintenance and repair and how to ride safely on the streets. Once they completed the training, they each got to ride home from class on the last day (with an adult) with their very own bike, helmet, lock, and reflective lights.
This is the first time that Key City Bikes has worked with refugee participants in this program and it was a wonderful experience. Other children in the community are clamoring for their chance to take this incredible course themselves.
Perhaps the best testament to the success of this program is this: Mohammed, one of the boys who completed the training, found an abandoned bike in a parking lot. The tire was flat and the chain was in disrepair, rendering the bike unusable. He took it home, fixed the bike and cleaned it up, and then gave it to his younger brother to ride. It’s inspiring to see how much these young people learned, and the confidence and ability it has given them to share the gift with their family and friends.