Teesha Sharma and Christian Cowley of the CEED centre with their new Pedalist bike for Vel Organix. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

Green program aimed at helping Maple Ridge youth

Young people from the streets and justice system working for CEED

A new vehicle will be silently gliding around downtown Maple Ridge, stopping to collect the organic waste at local businesses.

Christian Cowley was showing off the new vehicle at Earth Day on Saturday in Memorial Peace Park.

Cowley is the executive director of the Community Education on Environment and Development (CEEDS) Centre in Maple Ridge, and talked about a new program he calls Vel Organix, and how it will benefit the young people hired to collect the organics.

His employees will be youth who are homeless or coming out of the justice system. They will be trained as employees to take the bike around and collect organic waste, giving them pre-employment training and helping them integrate into the community.

“The real core of the program is helping them move ahead in life, from a bad start,” said Cowley.

The vehicle itself is called a Virtue Pedalist, and is a fibreglass body around a bicycle frame. It is a two-seater, with one seat behind the driver, and is still narrow enough to use bike lanes while storing cargo in the front.

The young people involved in the program will get bike training from Jackie Chow of the HUB cycling group to make sure they can do the job safely.

Cowley said because the goal is to give the kids a fresh start, they will have short shifts and will get paid for their work, and clients of the program will pay a nominal fee.

Already the two MLAs offices in Maple Ridge are on board, and more downtown businesses will be solicited. Cowley expects to have the new Vel Organix program up and running in June or July.

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