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Setting the wheels in motion

MacKillop’s innovative bike program, Step:Bike, will soon be able to reach more children and young people, helping them to learn valuable maintenance skills and giving them a sense of achievement, thanks to a grant of $30,000 from the Collier Charitable Fund.

Following a successful pilot program run in Geelong during 2019 and early 2020, the program has been a huge success, building confidence, employability skills, responsibility and a community connection for the young people taking part.

The brain child of one of MacKillop’s Residential Care Workers, Rick Bromley, Step:Bike works with disadvantaged and at-risk young people living in Out of Home Care (OOHC) in the Geelong region, giving them the opportunity to learn how to repair and restore bicycles donated by the local police and community members.

Rick loved tinkering with bikes and cars when he was a teenager and felt that the young people he works with in residential care might enjoy it too. Rick and MacKillop’s Residential Care Coordinator, Meisha Taumoefolau, have long been looking for an opportunity to start a program to teach young kids about bike maintenance and safety and MacKillop secured philanthropic support to run an eight-week pilot program.

The bike program’s success has far surpassed our wildest dreams,” said Meisha. “The children and young people taking part in the program are fully engaged in building their bikes and learning to use the maintenance tools. One young man arrived at the shed where we hold the program, more than an hour before the class was due to begin, so that he could begin working on his bicycle as soon as possible. This was after he had caught an early train and walked from the station.

– Rick

One of the most innovative aspects of the program is that as well as building a bicycle for themselves to keep, participants also build a bike for someone in the community. Most of the kids take the opportunity to gift a bicycle to a sibling, but one young man made a bicycle for a homeless person, to help make their life easier.

The program has been inundated with old bicycles, some donated from Victoria Police in Barwon and the others from the local community and MacKillop staff. Step:Bike has been in such demand that it continued to be offered within the confines of COVID-19 restrictions as one-on-one sessions, observing physical distancing regulations.

The Collier Charitable Fund grant allows the program to be scaled up so that many more children and young people have the opportunity to learn valuable new skills and feel a real sense of accomplishment and connection to community.