Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bikes, Bikes, Bikes

I just love going to ESL, I know I say that alot but I look forward to it so much throughout the week. A few days ago we had class, and we have had several new people from Eritrea, Africa that have been placed here recently. A few families, but mostly young men in their early twenties. Their English is much more progressed than I had expected and a couple of the guys are actually taking a GED class at the local high school. Probably the most advanced guy of the group, Major Hailu, told me that it's very difficult for him to get to class because he has no transportation, and the school is not really within walking distance. So, I asked him if had a bicycle and he said, "no, I can't afford to buy a bicycle". I told him that I would see what I could do, maybe I could find someone who would be willing to donate a bicycle for him. So, we put the word out, and several weeks later one of the other volunteers called and said that she had someone at her church that had several bicycles they would like to donate, but most need some major work and adjustments. Some of the work was minor, but most would need to go to a mechanic for major adjustments to make them safe to ride. (As a side note...I do most of the bike maintenance at our house, well anything that doesn't need to be taken to the bike shop. So, if it's changing a flat or making minor adjustments I usually do that). So we went to pick up the bikes, not knowing exactly what we were going to do with all of the ones that needed work. I called a local bike shop (not the one we use...they're kind of far away and it wasn't going to be convenient for me to get everything over to them even though I knew they would help me out...we LOVE Matthews Bike Shop) I just thought it would be more convenient if we could use the local one, which will remain nameless, (they're on the corner of 116th and Rangeline). They refused to donate any time or parts...just an FYI. I didn't know what we were going to do. These bikes were just sitting at our house waiting for some love so they could go to a new owner. But they needed more help than I could give them. So, a few days after picking up the bikes we were back in class and we had received some job applications from a local business to use as practice but there was also a chance that they might be able to hire some of my Eritran guys. So I took them all aside and we started working on filling out the application while the rest of the group continued with their normal lesson. They filled in the information about their address and phone number, blah, blah, blah. So then we got to the part where it asked about previous work history. They weren't exactly sure what that meant so I started asking questions about what kind of work they had done in the past. All of these guys had been living in a camp in Ethiopia for the last few years, and usually in the camp they can find work. So I'm going around asking each of the guys what kind of work they did when they were in the camp, and I get to Major Hailu. He says that when he lived in the camp he was a BICYCLE MECHANIC!! WHAT!! Imagine a complete look of shock on my face. I couldn't believe it! These guys that are in my class, they want to work so bad, even for now if they don't get paid. For them to feel like they are actually doing something, to have something to work on during the day instead of sitting in their tiny little apartments while they're trying to learn English so that they can even go through a job interview. He was so excited, and I was so excited for him! He knew what this meant too, that he would be helping others that were in the same situation that he was. People that have no transportation and wouldn't be able to afford to purchase even a used bike. He was going to be able to provide for the other refugees in his community. He looked at me though and said, "but Whitney, I don't have any tools to fix these bikes". I immediately called our bike shop this time, and like always, they helped us out. They gave me all of the tools that he would need at a major discount. And who knows, maybe there's a chance that they would be willing to hire him at some point. I was so excited to be able to give him all of the tools so that he could start working on the bikes. The first one I gave him he had it fixed in just a few hours and the next week I saw him out riding it on the way to his GED class.
So that was kind of a round about way to tell a really cool story. But seriously, I never would have gone through all of this work on my own. God has really planted a seed in my heart for these dear people, and he's truly giving me all of the tools to make sure that they're taken care of because I would have no idea how to do this on my own.

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