||A Syrian boy named Basheer rides a bike at Pineview Elementary School in Reedsburg which houses a program in which students rehabilitate bicycles to send to less fortunate communities both in the United States and abroad. The program is run by Gary Williams, Bill Schallhammer (Sacred Heart parishioners), and Jim Wittenberger. (Contributed photo)
REEDSBURG -- Because of security reasons the parents of the boy pictured with this article have given permission to use his picture but only with his first name -- Basheer.
The family has been in this country less than a year and they still fear that there could be separation, rejection, or forced return -- just generally lots of settlement fears.
Building bridges by fixing bicycles
While our state government has prohibited Syrians from coming into our state, and our country is not only trying to ban new Syrian immigrants but also building walls to prevent our southern neighbors from coming into our country, some children at Pineview Elementary School in Reedsburg and some children from the parochial schools and home schooled children are building bridges by fixing bicycles.
They fix a bicycle for themselves, but then they have the opportunity to fix a bicycle for someone who does not have one and cannot afford one.
In the past, we have sent 1,000 bicycles to the Dominican Republic, 86 to Mound Bayou Mississippi, and this year we have focused on Michigan -- 50 bikes to Flint, Mich., to the families that are not only poor but the victims of lead in their water, 50 to Pontiac, Mich., to the refugee resettlement program there, and to Portage, Mich., also to a refugee resettlement program.
One may ask, why bicycles? Bicycles are not a “survival” gift. But they are used for transportation, not just for kids, but also for adults who want them. They use them for work, groceries, visiting, and for fun. Bicycles can be a “partner” in life for all kinds of things.
The recipients of the bicycles were very grateful and appreciative of receiving them. Bicycles are also what our children have to give -- they are easily recycled and they are actually fun to work on.
Our children in this program learn about proper tool usage, the metric system (all the nuts and bolts are metric), problem solving, and working with a partner. They also learn about sharing, world affairs, and being generous. It is a very multi-purpose program
To learn more
If anyone or any school would like to develop a program like this, I would be happy to help. Donations are also welcome.
Contact Gary Williams at
or send donations to soac, 150 8th St., Reedsburg, WI 53959.
Gary Williams is a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Reedsburg.