Text: Nikolaos Papadopoulos
Picture: Nikolaos Papadopoulos
Danes can sometimes come across as aloof for some internationals. However, nothing could be further from the truth with one particular Dane in Esbjerg, Erik Voldsgaard Jakobsen. You can always expect a hearty smile, warm joke, and a helping hand in his bicycle workshop.
Erik, a social worker by profession, has been running the little bicycle workshop on behalf of the local YMCA (Kristelig Forening for Unge Mænd-KFUM for short) chapter for the past 3 years. After it was defunded following the Britta Nielsen scandal, the YMCA stepped in, calling on him to take charge.
The workshop's purpose is to "get help fixing your bike", mainly aiming to educate the younger generation in bicycle repairs. However, its unofficial role is to provide children, students, refugees, and generally people down on their luck a cheap alternative to larger bike stores. With bikes being a well-known staple of Danish life and culture, this is necessary for getting around the place.
“The place is not meant to make money, but to bring people happiness.” - Erik Voldsgaard Jakobsen
Apart from repairs, the store also sells used bikes at low prices, donated by Esbjerg residents and the local police station's stolen bike impound lot, and while adults have to pay a small price for their bike of choice, children get bikes for free! Needless to say that bikes are checked for being stolen in the appropriate database, and children still need their parents' permission to acquire a bicycle.
Erik does not charge for his work, and the YMCA then uses any small profits made from spare parts that might need to be ordered to fund activities for children, such as summer camps. As Erik says: "the place is not meant to make money, but to bring people happiness", a resounding point, evident by the fact that "satisfied customers" (overwhelmingly non-Danes) many times come back to assist Erik with his work voluntarily.
Even then, Erik never loses his jolly demeanour and is always willing to assist everyone who walks through the door, a shining example that Denmark is not the dark, gloomy place that it is rumoured to be.
For more information about YMCycle, you can visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/YMCycleEsbjerg/