Building young leaders one bike at a time
When Calwell High School teacher Francis Ventura suggested to a group of Year 9 boys that they could start a bike repair program in their break times, an enterprise was born.
Not much more than that nudge was needed, and they were on their way, fixing bikes donated by the public in their first workspace, a disused school toilet block.
They have since repaired more than 20 bikes, passing them on to the Margaret Hendry School Bike Library so that other children can benefit from their handywork.
Ingenuity was a feature of this inspiring project from the beginning, with a pipe affixed across a former toilet stall to hang bike frames while the students worked.
When they later moved their bike workshop into a disused classroom space, they again improvised, transforming old tables into bike stands.
The boys encountered some challenges in the early days, particularly finding parts and tools, however they overcame both with some know-how and patience.
The group that formed in 2019 comprised of 10 boys. In 2020, two have been lost to interstate moves, but the rest remain, keen as ever.
While the energy and commitment are very much credit to the boys themselves, they are well supported by teaching staff and the school’s Social Worker, Ben Edwards.
When Ben asked the boys how they felt about the project recently, there was a resounding ‘good’ and ‘pretty good’. As to what’s next, the answer was clear – they want to fix more bikes!
All bikes received were donations from the public and receive a second life through the Margaret Hendry School Bike Library. This very special library provides bikes to students who would otherwise find it difficult to buy them.
The Green Shed at Mugga Lane heard about the boys’ fine work and has offered to donate bikes it receives to the project.
Calwell High School principal Megan Altenburg recalls the bike workshop space looking like a ‘real man cave’.
When asked by Francis Ventura, the teacher who inspired them to begin the project, how they felt about being recognised as young school leaders, the boys remained very cool. ‘Accomplished,’ one answered.
Stay tuned for further updates on the adventures of the ‘Calwell Bike boys’ who are building their very own brand of community wellbeing and resilience.
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