29 May 2008
Yesterday I volunteered with Bikes Not Bombs
A nicer and more generous group of people I have never met. After a warm welcome they gave me concrete projects I could do and enjoy. The volunteer evening is loosely organized chaos, which makes it that much more fun.
For 23 years Bikes Not Bombs has been recycling thousands of bicycles in a community supported program to send bicycles to places that need them. The shipment we were preparing will be going to Ghana. I worked with people 20 years older than me, and 20 years younger. I wrenched with folks I'd probably never cross paths with in "real" life. The local community aspect felt as good as our global purpose.
During the day program children are trained in bike repair and earn their very own bike. The children train the staff very well for dealing with us volunteers. Some volunteers had never worked on a bicycle before. The staff was great at showing them what to do. They were happy to educate me too - I got to bend their ears about all my bike's ailments (well, actually my husband's, he doesn't know it yet but he may have a cracked crank arm). I learned the difference between a cassette and a free wheel while holding used examples of each. Most exciting to me was learning how the cassette's races work to facilitate shifting. When I go back I'll see if they can show me how a three-speed shifts. I've seen a diagram but it isn't enough.
As if the community (local and global), and the educational aspects weren't already enough, my volunteer time counts for credits towards used gear in the bike shop. I don't know what my six credits from this evening would get me but I'm saving up my credits for a front rack. I want one large enough to carry a pie.
All told this is a rewarding way to spend a Wednesday evening. I look forward to going back.