Iqaluit teen spends weekends gathering bikes from dump to fix for local kids

‘The kids’ smiles after they get a new bike, that’s my favourite part,’ says Joseph Takpannie

Thirteen-year-old Joseph Takpannie gathers broken bikes from Iqaluit’s landfill every Saturday to repair throughout the week and give away to local kids. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By Mélanie Ritchot

Gathering discarded bikes, strollers and toboggans from Iqaluit’s landfill has become part of 13-year-old Joseph Takpannie’s Saturday routine.

Every weekend he gathers about seven bikes, give or take, to fix up throughout the week then give away to local kids.

“I thought, ‘These kids don’t have bikes, they always fight over them, I should just fix them for them,’” Takpannie said.

“They’re nice kids, they don’t deserve to fight.”

To date, Takpannie guesses he’s repaired and given away about 100 bikes over three years.

Many of them just need minor repairs, like a new chain, which takes about 20 minutes to fix, he said.

Others need a bit more work, like a new derailleur — the piece that shifts the gears.

A pile of broken bikes awaits Joseph Takpannie in his backyard, ready for repairs and a new life. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

Another challenge is actually getting the bikes out from the piles of garbage.

“We’ve been trying to get a certain bike for months and we can’t,” he said.

“Nothing is wrong with it, I just need to pump the front tire.”

On average, Takpannie fixes about one bike every evening after school. As he accumulates fixed bikes they are set up outside for kids and parents to claim.

“The kids’ smiles after they get a new bike, that’s my favourite part all the time,” Takpannie said.

“I just like seeing the little kids’ faces and all.”

This Wednesday afternoon’s spread included about a dozen bikes of different sizes, a stroller with new wheels and two GT toboggans donning new skis, ready for the winter season.

By the end of the day, the bikes were all claimed.

Joseph Takpannie set out bikes, a stroller, two toboggans and a scooter for kids to claim Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

“I’m usually in the backyard, I never pay attention, but by the time I go see if there’s another bike they’re all gone,” he said.

Now he’s starting to see his bikes around town. Recently when he was out giving a bike away to a child, he saw another kid riding a bike he had fixed.

“The little kid was so happy, he was giggling, and they were all biking together,” said Takpannie.

“I asked if he remembered me … and he said, ‘Yes, thank you very much, I love this bike so much.’”

Takpannie does all the repairs in his backyard, with a nearby pile of bikes waiting to be fixed up next. Despite colder weather on the way, he plans to continue.

“I don’t mind the cold, I’ve got a light, I’ve got a little heater to warm me up.”

Joseph Takpannie says he doesn’t plan to stop repairing bikes when the cold weather and short days arrive this winter. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

His supplies usually comes from the dump as well, with parts from different bikes making new working models. He’s even found bikes he’s fixed back at the dump.

“[Some] people just take them and break them into pieces,” he said.

Still, he does his best to fix them up again.

With some bikes needing more time-consuming repairs, Takpannie said he’s considering doing a raffle for one of the nicer bikes he’s fixed up and painted to raise money for parts.

Being completely self-taught, Takpannie learned to fix up bikes by watching mechanic shows on TV.

“[I thought] they look kind of similar to a vehicle so they don’t look too hard,” he said. “And it started to turn into a hobby.”

The aspiring mechanic said he’s looking forward to studying mechanics in school once he starts Grade 10 at Inuksuk High School next year.

“I might end up being a mechanic but I could still do cars and [bikes], these are easy.”

On Thursday morning, Takpannie received a donation of over 50 bikes from a woman in Tundra Valley who had been collecting broken bikes around town for over two years.

The young bike repairman now has over 50 bikes to fix up for local kids after the large donation came in on Thursday morning. (Photo courtesy of Ina Tikivik)

Now, Takpannie’s got his work cut out for him.

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(18) Comments:

  1. Posted by Adrienne Silk on

    This young man is a stellar example of what a difference one person can make in a community. Congratulations to him and his parents for raising such a great kid.

  2. Posted by Ken on

    Great story, makes me think if the city had a recycling system in place for all kinds of things, less garbage would go into the bay and river.

  3. Posted by Elijah shem on

    I am so impressed with this kid thinking back at myself when i was young i could never own a new bike but when i did i was so happy / The kids must be happy when they get the bike that he fixed, So proud of you kid, keep it up.

  4. Posted by Good on ya on

    This kid deserves a serious award. He’s probably done more for the kids of Iqaluit than some organizations with huge budgets.

  5. Posted by Awesome deeds on

    Awesome deed, someone get him a tent to continue his awesome work, tent and a heater….organization who didn’t do anything for the kids much, should at lease be able to provide him a medium size tent and a heater to continue his awesome work😊 just a suggestion😊

  6. Posted by Heartwarming on

    Finally some news that brings some joy to our hearts and proves that there is still some humanity in this world. Keep up the amazing work, you’re going places young man!

  7. Posted by Friendly Neighbour on

    I am so proud of this young man for using his time and talents to improve the lives of others. What a gift he is to our community!

  8. Posted by S on

    Mr. Joseph Takpannie, sir. You are a 10.

    I’ve seen you puttering around outside your home; didn’t realize what you were at. Not only are you that 10, you’ve filled everyone’s heart today. Thank you

  9. Posted by Ajunngi on

    Now to organize a fundraiser to order a bike rack so Joseph can work on the bikes. Where would we find a rack stand?

  10. Posted by Lyse Boyce on

    This is so impressive, really great he’s been getting so many kids set up with bikes. Are there some bike tools and other things Joseph could use for this ongoing project?

  11. Posted by Lloyd Norman Binder on

    Let’s see a place to send the fella some funds!

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