A few locals from Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, have been delivering bicycles to migrant farm workers, and lending support for these hardworking workers.
Thelma Rodriquez, a Pitt Meadows local had a chance meeting with a Mexican farm worker eight years ago that transformed the way she looked or thought about farm workers.
“I started asking them if they needed clothing, food. I saw their necessities,” she said.
She realized one of their biggest problems was transportation to get to work, to go to grocery stores and anywhere else they wanted as they were migrant workers, seasonal, and were also not paid a lot to afford buying their own means of transportation.
This year, she met a Maple Ridge local who has been providing bicycles to migrant farm workers over the past few seasons.
“Now Steve and I work together in this because he can fix the bikes we collect and the farm workers can enjoy a bike in good condition. We collect bikes for the farm workers, well, not only bikes. I collect donations like clothes, shoes, food, anything,” said Rodrigues.
Rodriquez also organizes events and parties for the farms at the end of August to show appreciation for the workers’ hard work.
Steve Nicklen, the other local who repaired bikes for Rodriguez, has been repairing and donating bicycles for the past three seasons.
He first started after seeing an ad asking for bikes for migrant farm workers.
“Shortly after, I was introduced to 88-year-old Dr. Roger Page. Dr. Page spends his evenings visiting farm workers and writing their needs in a little notebook. During the day he shops at thrift stores for deals on whatever the workers need; work gloves, shoes, back packs, etc. I agreed to help him fulfill the demand for bikes,” said Nicklen.
Nicklen recollected a time when he delivered an old Kuwahara cruiser that was donated and in very poor condition. He rebuilt it from the ground up and fully accessorized it.
“I’ll never forget the older gentleman that received it. He smiled and laughed as he rang the bell and rode circles around me. It reminded me of how excited I was the year I got a brand new bike for Christmas. Moments like that make it all worthwhile,” Nicklen said.
So far, Nicklen alone has personally supplied about 60 bikes and repaired 10 bikes that were already on the farms. However, the total number by all volunteers would be much, much higher, he said.
“I cannot reconcile in my mind how we live in such a rich country and pay our farm workers so poorly for very difficult work and expect them to pay for bicycles, good quality warm work clothing and food with our high cost of living,” said Nicklen, “I can’t imagine being away from my family in another country every year for six months or longer. I don’t think we can appreciate the mental toll this must take on the workers. My heart breaks for them. I have a skill that helps these folks.”
There are several groups across lower mainland offering assistance to migrant farm workers, but for the Maple Ridge Meadows/Pitt Meadows area, it is primarily Nicklen, Rodriguez and her husband, Page and Mike Hamaliuk who coordinate the collection, repair and delivery of bicycles, said Nicklen.
“I expect next year will be very, very busy for me! These two cover a lot of farms around town,” said Niklen, pointing to the work done by Page and Rodriguez.
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