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    At RacàGnac, children repair & take ownership of their bike

    As every Wednesday night since May 2015, a crowd of children has gathered at the bottom of the Ades'if courtyard in Saint-Josse. This is where the RacàGnac associative workshop welcomes them from 6pm to 9pm. At the roots of the project, we find a handful of friends, who benefited from a neighborhood contract and local ADES network, to give birth to their workshop, open to all but also, according to Gautier, one of the volunteers, as a preferred location for accompanying children in practising biking: "In seeing place Houwaert after 4pm, which is packed with kids on bikes, skidding and breaking their bikes, we said to ourselves that we could get them involved in the repair, bike maintenance, so they could benefit from the bikes’ recycling.

    A largely successful bet judging by the vibe, despite the pouring rain this end of August. Prevented from using the courtyard but far from discouraged, the children joke passing from one bike to the other, while Gautier and Martin patiently teach them to repair their bikes. But although there are many children, we also meet adults "On a typical Wednesday, you can have both neighborhood kids, ADES regulars, or people who work at the Commission and who found us in a directory of participatory workshops. These are absurd moments but it's really great to have this place where people can meet around different bike uses".

    RacàGnac provides the public with tools, used spare parts at free prices and new consumables at cost price so that everyone can repair their bike, or even invest in the complete restoration of one of the very many bikes donated to the workshop. Just like Rodi, who will leave after 3 hours of intensive work with a mountain bike he will have repaired himself, thanks to Martin’s advice.

    On the team’s side, volunteers also come from different backgrounds: among the social workers in youth or housing we also find an automobile engineer "who comes to redeem himself" jokes Martin, but also the invaluable Roger, a local retiree whom RacàGnac can count on for organization "Every week, he comes in at 5pm to get everything ready, install everything, tools, workshop floor, and once everything is going well, leaves ''. In a corner of the room, as discreet as concentrated, there are also two Afghan refugees, come to get involved here via the NGO Caritas, on a stubborn bike.

    While Gautier is very happy with the intergenerational and mixed side emerging from RacàGnac, two things are close to his heart for the future: "I would like to make young people understand that this workshop is theirs, that they get long-term involvement in the project [...] and make girls want to invest as a mechanics because this is our weak spot".

    The RacàGnac workshop is always happy to welcome new volunteers and is open every Wednesday from 6pm to 9pm at the Ades'if, Rue de Liedekerke 71 in Saint-Josse, more info on their Facebook page www.

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    Photos by Gilles Bolland