A ride in the park for Belarusian children
“Do you know how to shift gears?” 10-year-old Jacob Bostick asked Dima Pisarenko.
Pisarenko looked at his Russian translator and then shook his head, no.
“Don’t worry, I’ll show you,” Bostick said to the 11-year-old visiting from Belarus.
As a student in Steve Davis’ bicycle repair class, Bostick knows about bike gears. In Davis’ two-week summer class at Seven Hills Middle School, students learn how to repair old bikes by refurbishing some themselves.
“The kids do it all,” Davis said. “They rebuild everything on the bikes from breaks down to the ball bearing.”
Once a bike is rebuilt, the students either keep it or donate it to someone who needs a bicycle, such as any of the 26 visiting children from Belarus as part of Nevada County’s Chernobyl Children’s Project, Davis said.
When Davis first introduced the Bicycle Underground – the bike program’s official name – to the Seven Hills administration five years ago, it was strictly a bicycle repair class. Now, thanks to financial support and donations from the community, the class provides students with a service-learning experience, Davis said.
For example, last May, several students from Davis’ class donated their repaired bikes to the Loaves and Fishes homeless community center in Sacramento, and yesterday, they donated repaired bikes to visiting children from Belarus.
“This thing started in a closet behind the gym, and now we have these custom-made facilities,” Davis said. “It’s amazing how successful we’ve become.”
Davis, who always had a passion for cycling, is also a school counselor at Seven Hills. The Bicycle Underground, he said, allows him to help kids solve problems in a more measurable way.
“Working with kids through the standard counseling system is a slow process,” he said. “But, teaching kids to repair bikes, I can actually see them making progress.”
In the program’s beginning stages, Davis used $5,000 of his own money to purchase old bikes at garage sales for his students to repair. As word circulated about the Bicycle Underground, donors began calling Davis from all over Northern California.
One donor, a 73-year-old man from Alta Sierra, donated the bicycle he rode across Europe, Davis said.
“People have deep attachments to their bikes,” he said. “So I feel honored and privileged to be the recipient of these things that they’re so attached to.”
In the same selfless manner donors give bikes to Davis’ class, Davis’ students were eager to give children from Belarus an opportunity to own their own bicycle and show them how it works. Davis and his students reciprocated a lesson about the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl by giving the visiting children a lesson on bike safety.
“My kids really stepped up and took care of business,” Davis said.
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