The following is a letter from Sarah Braunstein, Youth Development Specialist & Grant Writer at Bikes Not Bombs. Sarah organizes the Chain Reaction program, an initiative of B.O.C.A., a Bikes Not Bombs Youth Program. On Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:30-6pm, Chain Reaction opens for business at Boys and Girls Clubs around Boston offering low-cost bicycle repairs while you wait, free "Learn it, Earn it" repairs, as-is bicycles for sale, and youth-led mechanics lessons. Chain Reaction is made possible by United Way's Youth Venture Program in partnership with Roll It Forward, Boston. For more information call Sarah at Bikes Not Bombs at 617-522-0222 x104, email firstname.lastname@example.org
March 22, 2012
Hi Chain Reaction Team,
I don't plan on sending an email update every week, but yesterday was such an amazing day, I just wanted to share it with you. As we were packing up, one of the BNB Youth Mechanics turned to the rest of us and asked, "was this a perfect day?" We all nodded. From the moment we walked in to the Yawkey Club, right up until we walked out the door, we were absolutely swamped. One family brought three BMX bikes for us to check out, we found another bike, a 40-year-old mixte, waiting for us in the closet, and throughout the afternoon we worked on a total of 10 bikes.
The BMX bikes were fixed for a total of $2. Three bikes, for $2, because, as we had guessed, there wasn't actually anything wrong with them. Flat tires were actually just without air, handlebars just needed to be tightened. Only one needed a real repair - new brake cable and housing - which cost the owner those two dollars.
The one bike that did need a lot of work was that mixte waiting for us. It was dropped off by the mother of a BGCB youth named Bokani. Instead of sitting around and watching us, Bokani rolled up her sleeves and learned how to do all the work herself. She put on a new chain, replaced cables and housing, adjusted brakes and pumped the tires. Because she did the work, the repairs were free, which allowed her mother to spend the money she would have used on repairs, to buy her daughter a bike from us. As they walked away, Bokani told her mother that she wanted to donate her old bike to BNB. She totally gets it - and she was there for just two hours. The tune up and new bike would have probably gone for $325 total at a regular shop. We were able to provide them AND a helmet, for a total of $50. And, if something does go wrong on her new bike, Bokani has the skills to fix it.
Kids were begging to learn mechanics skills and to go on rides, dragging their parents in to buy bikes so they can all ride together, and asking tons of questions. Two club youth have even already signed up to do the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon in June.
The day's sales, two bikes, two helmets, two locks, and assorted repairs and parts, paint a promising picture. But this project isn't just about sales. What we thought we knew is true - everyone wants to bike, all they need is access, and to feel like they can step into a shop and feel welcomed and at home. One youth who stopped by said he plans to keep coming to help us out, another literally jumped for joy when he found out that our next stop would be Orchard Gardens, the club he usually attends.
I am also seeing amazing changes in the BNB youth, who, as a result of this project, really do believe they can do anything now. They need me less and less each day, and are such amazing role models, teachers, mechanics and community organizers.
So I just wanted to thank you all for believing in this project and for giving your time, space, supplies, ideas and patience to help make it happen.
We are so excited about the progress we've seen thus far and about the rest of our stops between now and October.
All the best,