Kids new to Canada forge sense of belonging through Fredericton cycling club

·3 min read
Members of the Wil-Doo cycling club in Fredericton pose for a shot during one of their outings. (Aniekan Etuhube/CBC News - image credit)
Members of the Wil-Doo cycling club in Fredericton pose for a shot during one of their outings. (Aniekan Etuhube/CBC News - image credit)

Bicycle riding is a summer staple for all ages. But for the kids of Doone Street on the north side of Fredericton, it goes far beyond simple transportation.

For them, it's an opportunity to explore the city, meet new friends and feel part of the community.

"It's just nice having a connection, like near me," said Jayden, a new member of the club.

Wil-Doo cycling club was founded by Jenn Wambolt in 2014.

WATCH / Kids foster friendship and community through cycling

The name is derived from two streets in the neighbourhood the club serves, Wilson Row and Doone Street, where many of the tenants in the townhouses are newcomers to Canada.

The club organizes biking excursions around the city and engages children in educational and recreational activities.

Wambolt, who moved to Doone Street in 2010, said she felt the need for a summer program and started the bike program to give the kids something to do.

The club is also an opportunity for the kids to feel a sense of belonging, she said.

Aniekan Etuhube/CBC News
Aniekan Etuhube/CBC News

"I want to create a world where everybody is welcome, everybody feels like they belong. And cycling is the way to do it."

Wambolt said most of the kids are refugees, and they come from a variety of countries.

She wants them to feel comfortable in the community — and express a desire to stay.

"They often come to the community not speaking a word of English, not speaking a word of French. So it's an opportunity to get to know your neighbours."

Aniekan Etuhube/CBC News
Aniekan Etuhube/CBC News

Old bicycles serving a new purpose

Wambolt's backyard is a makeshift bicycle repair shop, where she collects bicycles that have been donated or thrown away.

Once repaired, the refurbished bicycles go to the kids. On rare occasions, she may sell a few bikes to raise money for the club.

"When I pull up and I have bikes on the rack, I'll get a number of kids say 'Jenn who is that bike for?' They love seeing other kids get bikes and they love receiving bikes."

With the support the club receives from well-meaning Fredericton residents, Wambolt said, she is able to afford bicycle parts and pay for biking trips.

More than just cycling

At the Wil-Doo club, cycling around Fredericton is only one of many activities.

Wambolt said the kids go on at least 20 trips a year. The group bikes to various activities around the city, including swimming, cultural events, and picnics.

"Just focusing on what I'm doing, and the kids, spending time with them, is hugely important," she said.

Aniekan Etuhube/CBC News
Aniekan Etuhube/CBC News

Mohammad Shalhoub, one of the young leaders in the club, said that when they go riding, he stays at the back to make sure no one is left behind.

"We went to Killarney Lake, that was really fun. Because they were very long bike rides and I got to enjoy them with my friends."

'Really, really, really happy'

Aniekan Etuhube/CBC News
Aniekan Etuhube/CBC News

When Maggie Kenge was growing up, her older siblings were members of the cycling club and having fun, so her dream was to join one day.

"I'm just really happy, I'm just like really really really happy, I'm like 100 per cent happy," Maggie said.

Aniekan Etuhube/CBC News
Aniekan Etuhube/CBC News

Rihan Hassan said she has made many amazing friends in the club, and her favourite activity has been strawberry picking.

"I have a beautiful family, I have friends and the bike club is my favourite thing to do in the summer," she said.

Wambolt likes to see how the kids grow from the Wil-Doo experience.

"It's just amazing to see this little kid that is shy, just watching them develop over the summer, into this very independent, confident individual. It's just amazing for me to watch that."

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