Program teaching Valley kids important life skills

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PHOENIX -- “When I first started, I would ask questions about everything,” Francisco Bustamante said. “These days other kids that still need help with bikes come to me.”

The 13-year-old loves Barrio Works. The Neighborhood Ministries program mentors kids in the downtown Phoenix area.

“Kids come in and they basically log hours and we teach them the skills of bike maintenance and repair,” said Chris Williams, the coordinator at Barrio Works.
“We turn their hours into this currency inside the shop,” Williams said. “They can buy a bicycle or tubes and tires to fix their bike if they already have one.”

The shop, which is open to the public for buying and repairing bikes, is doing much more than just showing these kids how to put a bicycle together.

“We want to teach the youth some of the basic skills of employment, but also as a part of Neighborhood Ministries we want to create a space where old people and young people can come together,” Williams said. “We want to cross socioeconomic lines, racial lines, gender lines and have people from mixed backgrounds working together.”

It's that working together that also gives kids in the program hope that opportunities are just around the corner.

“Teach youth that they have a value and they're not the throw-away kid that a lot of folks try to tell them that they are,” Williams said.

“If you didn't know something, you will learn it here,” 9-year-old Angel Aragon said.

“I would struggle,” Francisco said. “I would say no I don't want to do this and I would leave in the middle of something and then Chris taught me to keep trying and at the end I would get it.”

This is something that keeps Williams and the rest of the Barrio Works volunteers coming back for more. 
“A kid learning how to fix a bike and the joy on their faces going for a ride when it’s all fixed that's a big pay off,” Williams said.

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