“You are bike doctors and community healers,” says Kevin Faller. He’s seated in a circle with about 15 middle and high schoolers. Faller is the program manager of Kalihi Valley Instructional Bike Exchange program, better known as KVIBE. He’s gathered with the kids in the back of a nondescript bicycle shop in Kalihi on a cool Friday afternoon.
KVIBE is one of more than a dozen programs run by Kokua Kalihi Valley, a federally qualified health center that provides access to care for the neighborhood’s low-income, immigrant population. The KVIBE shop is located only miles away from Oahu’s two public housing complexes, Mayor Wright Homes and Kuhio Park Terrace. Faller, who lives in Kalihi, has built a rapport with the youth participants, many of whom are teenage boys. They refer to him as Kuya Kevin, a Tagalog sign of respect that means “brother.”
The youth program started in 2005 through a grant and has been sustained with additional grant funding and community donations of bikes and supplies. It’s free for youth to participate. Faller says about 350 kids and teens come through the program each year. He says KVIBE is not only a neighborhood shop for local youth to learn how to fix, maintain, and build bikes, it’s a safe space and a place where kids learn positive habits like exercising, kindness, even public speaking and interviewing skills.
“They find out about [KVIBE] through word of mouth,” he says. “We believe they’ll be here if they need to be here.”
The KVIBE shop, with a colorful mural on the outside and chock full of bikes, supplies, and participant photos on the inside, is open Wednesday and Friday after school. Each youth participant does 12 hours of sweat equity, in which he or she learns to fix and maintain bikes, keep the shop clean, and eventually build and keep their own bike.
In addition to the bikes the youth fix and maintain for themselves, Re-use Hawaiʻi sells bikes on behalf of KVIBE. About three bikes go to their Kakaʻako warehouse each week and Faller says 100% of the proceeds go back to KVIBE.
The afternoons begin shortly after everyone has arrived and checked in with Faller. The kids set up white pop-up tents and wheel out bikes that need maintenance. But before they begin any work, they sit down and briefly talk story. Faller calls it the aloha circle. Each kid states their name, their home, and how they’re feeling. The day ends similarly with a mahalo circle, where everyone says one thing they’re grateful for.
“I like learning everything about bikes,” says 12-year-old Franson Eram, adding that his favorite part about the program was building his own bike.
“I like helping others and being a part of the community,” adds 14-year-old Karmiann Hitto.
The 3rd Annual Kalihi Ahupuaa Ride
When: June 22
What: It’s an 8-mile downhill, education ride led by the KVIBE youth, in which participants learn about the rich history and cultural significance of the Kalihi neighborhood at stops along the way. Register at k-vibe.blogspot.com.