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Syrian newcomer fixes up piles of bikes with Saint John Bike Share Program

The Crescent Valley Resource Centre's Bike Share Program has seen high demand in recent years.

Since arriving in the Saint John, N.B. area in early February, 2016, Mohammed Khawan has been making an impact in his community — and others have felt it.

The 29-year-old arrived that month from Syria, and according to reports published by Global News, the first thing he did was take to the bike. “He says I’m going to work,” Khawan recalled, spoken through interpreter Nadhim Mansoor. The bike continued to take him places, leading him to become a technician with Crescent Valley Resource Centre in Saint John, fixing up bikes for the Centre’s Bike Share Program. Staffed and crewed by volunteers like Mohammed, the service distributes refurbished bikes to those of the area’s low-income neighbourhoods, many of whom are new arrivals from Syria.

But before then, Khawan, Global News reported, had been a barber. With 17 years experience in that field, he had plenty of experience, but opportunities for work were scant.

Bikes, on the other hand, provided all-new ones, particularly opportunities to learn a wealth of new experiences — ones he pursued with tremendous energy.

“‘He noticed there is a bike giveaway and we need like thirteen to fourteen bikes so he fixed them all,'” his interpreter explained to Global News reporters. From there — and it was just his second day on the job — the benefit of the bike mechanic’s work has helped many in the community, as program officials said.

“‘We started off, I think, the other year with maybe twenty-some people on our list that wanted bikes,” said Craig Campbell, the Bike Share Program’s co-chair. “It makes all the difference in the world because you can produce a hundred bikes in some reasonable amount of time.'”

With events like “Tuesday Tune-Ups,” the services and opportunities provided by the Bike Share Program have driven it into high demand. In the first years of the Bike Share Program, that initial demand for 20 bikes doubled, with 40 new demands.