“The last memory he had of a bike is of the one that transported him to a hospital when his leg was blown off at the age of ten.”
Executive Director, Patrick Krawec hears stories such as this from kids who come to the W.R.E.N.C.H., (Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub), Canada’s foremost bike re-use program, located at 1057 Logan Avenue.
“Today he lives in Winnipeg, far from the horrors of war and refugee camps in the former Republic of Congo,” says Krawec about this one particular boy. “He is grateful for his prosthetic leg and his new bike, but he had to draw on his resiliency and learn how to survive in the core area,” he adds.
“He built a bike. It was stolen. He built another bike. It was stolen. We gave him a lock and he still has the bike,” says Krawec. “And he is building bikes for his siblings and parents.”
Krawec says this young man now volunteers at the WRENCH and is a testament to hope and to the human spirit.
It’s this kind of impact that prompted a local choir to plan a fundraising event in support of the WRENCH.
Winnipeg’s largest choir, renowned for benefit concerts for local charities, will be performing under the direction of Nathan Poole and accompanist, Charmaine Bacon on May 8, 2015 at MBCI Jubilee Auditorium, 7:30 p.m. The 170 members of Margaret’s Choir, with guests Brass 5, and soloist Heather Thomas, will sing for the WRENCH, which embodies the social justice values of Margaret’s Choir of helping others, personally, locally and beyond.
The WRENCH, a registered charity, is nationally recognized as the leader in diverting tons of materials each year away from landfills, to be repurposed by participants who build bikes in Outreach Workshops, Earn-a-Bike programs, open shops and volunteer drop-ins.
The WRENCH specializes in working with kids who have had difficulty in the school system and need positive experiences. They also help refugees and immigrants to build and maintain a bike.
“Often that bike is the first thing they have ever owned that is totally theirs,” observes Krawec.
Krawec and the sole other staff person, Jordan Justice, believe in empowering youth and adults in healthy living by providing opportunities for community engagement, self-esteem, skill development and confidence building.
“Even though we live in the child poverty capital of Canada, people tend to assume all kids have a bike,” comments Krawec. “That’s just not so,” as he has discovered when visiting inner city schools.
Over the span of eight to 12 weeks, Krawec helps kids earn not only a bike but also a helmet and a lock; they are taught road skills as well.
The WRENCH increases awareness of poverty and bike education in community events such as Spoke ‘n’ Word at Millennium Library, Bike Bazaars, Landfill Parties, Bike Building Marathons and Bike Swaps.
New this year is a Women’s and Girls Bike Program whereby females will learn how to maintain and refurbish bikes and how to ride safely with kids in their care.
Also new is the Sister Cycle Series located at Hugh John MacDonald School where along with two mechanical instructors, newcomers can participate in discussion groups on how to participate in their Canadian life.
Over 200 volunteers help to foster a culture of repair and re-use in a safe, inclusive environment celebrating creativity and nurturance of a “pedal empowered community.” Not only do participants get a bike and learn mechanical skills, but they gain empathy and make connections with people they never would have met if not for bikes. Its what makes Winnipeg go round.
To learn more: www.thewrench.ca
Tickets for the Wrench benefit concert are available from: Geoff (204-488-0912) or Pat (204-452-6590)
General Admission: $16. Student Admission:$10. Youth under 12: $5.
All photos by Heather Emberley