Please Note: The Outdoor Research We Can Grant formally retired in 2020. Thank you to all who applied to and supported this program, we are happy to see the contributions live beyond its year. Learn about the grant and its previous winners below.
Last summer, we were so excited to award the W.R.E.N.C.H. the 2018 We Can Grant, a $10,000 award given to a non-profit for a project that will improve access to the outdoors in their community. (The 2019 applicatiton window is open—you can apply here.) And we're even more excited to check back with them this year to see what they've been able to do with the grant money. The Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub, or the WRENCH, for short—a non-profit organization that creates stronger, healthier communities by removing barriers to building, repairing and maintaining bicycles with a focus on educating youth.
"The W.R.E.N.C.H. was able to provide five Earn A Bike (EaB) courses for 35 youth from around Winnipeg," says Greg Allen, the W.R.E.N.C.H. Lead Instructor. "Over the course of eight workshops, participants completely rebuilt a bike from the ground up. By the end of the EaB course each participant had a bicycle (that they built themselves), the knowledge and skills to repair and maintain it, a helmet, lock and lights!"
The W.R.E.N.C.H. runs their operation with generally low overhead, using reclaimed bikes and working with the City of Winnipeg for reduced rent on shop space. But the demand for EaB courses is high—and OR is proud to help support these programs in more schools to promote healthy lifestyles and bicycle access to kids in populations that are underrepresented in bicycle use.
"One special experience we were offered through this funding was the opportunity to work with the Manitoba School for the Deaf," Allen says. "It was fresh and fascinating for the instructors—an entirely different milieu within the shop."
The instructors communicated their mechanical instruction through an interpreter, he says, but they also needed to create their own way of communicating one-on-one with students, using simple hand gestures and a few signs we picked up along the way. "The students loved the class and communicated their appreciation to us through an interpreter," Allen says. "Their enjoyment was palpable on the last day, after all the tough repairs were finished, and we got to ride our bikes outside - with huge smiles on their faces!"
The school staff were particularly grateful for the work we did with the students, Allen says. One teacher, Jim Coleman, an avid cyclist himself, said that he was looking forward to taking the students on rides around the community with their new bikes. He also mentioned that, as a science and industrial arts teacher, the skills developed in the W.R.E.N.C.H. Earn-a-Bike program are reinforced through all his lesson plans. He told Allen that programs like the W.R.E.N.C.H.’s Earn-a-Bike and funding from organizations like Outdoor Research open up a new world of possibilities for students within the Deaf community.