Jean-Claude Munyezamu doesn’t recall when he first began playing soccer — all he knows obviously is that he’s been fascinated by the game ever since he was a toddler.
Munyezamu, who’s the founding father of a neighborhood non-profit group, Umoja Community Mosaic, loved the game a lot that he learned easy methods to make soccer balls out of plastic bags at an early age.
He used this skill to make soccer balls for kids at a refugee camp in Kenya within the Nineties.
Munyezamu, who grew up in Rwanda, decided to depart his home country on account of growing instability and conflict in 1993.
“We knew that genocide was going to occur since it didn’t come overnight. There was a preparation,” Munyezamu said.
“There was already discrimination for our community. Nevertheless, in 1993, it was the worst, and we knew that isn’t going to recuperate. So I took [a] risk and I left.”
Munyezamu stayed in Kenya until 1998 before he got here to Canada searching for a greater life for his family.
Children did not have access to sports
Moving to Calgary presented a special set of challenges as he adjusted to a recent culture and tried to set things up for his family.
Munyezamu, who stayed in a public housing unit, noticed that children in the local people did not have much to do and would inadvertently get into trouble.
“Children … had no option. They didn’t play sport, they didn’t do anything,” he said before adding that he wondered whether it was a great idea to introduce them to soccer and teach them the fundamentals of the sport.
Determined to try steering the youngsters in the appropriate direction, he began teaching soccer on a whim and was greatly surprised by how popular it was. Dozens of children showed up and the news spread like wildfire, inspiring Munyezamu to make his initiative greater and higher.
Umoja Community Mosaic, formerly referred to as Soccer Without Boundaries, officially launched in 2010 and gave many kids, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, a likelihood to play competitive soccer and bond with their peers.
Kids were also given access to other initiatives, akin to a reading program that gave them a likelihood to learn easy methods to read and tutoring opportunities that allowed them to hunt assistance from volunteer tutors.
The local initiative offers classes to greater than 700 children and youth who’re mentored by dozens of coaches and volunteers, a lot of whom were a component of this system as kids.
Cultivating a way of belonging
There are several activities to pick from, akin to soccer training sessions across town, summer soccer camps and girls-only soccer sessions that seek to motivate more female players to choose up the game.
The free programs are inclusive and open to anyone excited about giving soccer a shot.
“We focus also on the social [aspect] and the belonging,” Munyezamu said.
“Those kids who’re born here also, they get to see that side of soccer again where mainly, , you come here to [play]. No pressure from the coach, no pressure from the trainer, you only come here to feel that you just are a part of the group.”
Julia Swallow, who’s a coach with Umoja Community Mosaic, immigrated to Canada from Kenya in 2009.
Unfamiliar with soccer, she found herself getting increasingly drawn to the game after she spotted a couple of kids playing on a field.
Before she knew it, she was playing soccer and competing against boys. Noticing her newfound love for the game, her father decided to enrol her within the local soccer league.
Swallow was introduced to Umoja Community Mosaic earlier this yr when a professor referred her to the organization.
“I have been working with them since January,” she said. “I have been helping the women’ program and meeting recent people here … just attempting to help [the] organization be a greater, greater, brighter space in Calgary.”
Inspiring more girls to play
Swallow hopes to encourage more girls to begin playing soccer and stay committed to the sport.
“I’ve noticed quite a lot of the younger women who’re really hesitant to return into sports, specifically soccer, they’re more involved seeing that there are other women helping out on this community,” she said.
“I’m hoping that…next yr, there’s more people coming in, more women involved in sport, after which the younger women can see, ‘oh, possibly sooner or later I may very well be that.'”
Spiro Kajusa, a pc science student and head coach with Umoja Community Mosaic, loves teaching kids soccer in his free time.
“I just actually need to provide these kids a chance to play soccer,” he said.
“That is one thing where most wouldn’t find a way to [do] due to possibly funds, possibly situations at home, whatever could also be occurring. I just want them to have availability and something that they’ll sort of go to.”
Kajusa began playing soccer on the age of six after joining considered one of Munyezamu’s first soccer sessions.
He grew to like the sport a lot that he practiced with Munyezamu and his team for greater than a decade, working as a volunteer and eventually, as a coach.
Kajusa felt so committed to the cause that he decided to show down international opportunities to proceed working with Umoja Community Mosaic, a call that he’s pleased with.
“I had the choice to go abroad and play post-secondary soccer or to return coach and I feel the reward I even have from coaching is lots,” he said.
“Looking back now…I feel [this] is a better option cause seeing how this system sort of grew me up, I can now pass [it] on to other kids as well.”
Tola Wariyo, a volunteer with Umoja Community Mosaic, believes that the soccer program taught him lots greater than soccer — it equipped him with life skills and allowed him to evolve.
“After I first got here, I used to be about 16, around that age and I didn’t know lots,” he said.
“Just through the 2 years or three years I have been on this program, it helped me… grow as an individual.”
In response to Wariyo, considered one of the most important strengths of this system is that it gives kids hope.
“Any person on the market wish to make it easier to, provide you with a likelihood…want you to enhance,” he said. “That is the most effective thing about this program.”
Wariyo hopes to turn out to be a coach someday and encourage others to attach with one another through their passion for the game.
Wariyo thinks that this system is particularly vital for newcomers struggling to form connections.
“After they come here, soccer is the fundamental thing that connects them together. They rejoice together,” he said.
“Sport brings people together, … they love soccer. I really like soccer … that brings people together they usually make friends.”