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Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Somalia, Syria and Brazil. These are just a few of the home countries of dozens of young people who participate in sports programs at BGC South East. “We could get around 100 young people together to play football nights,” says 22-year-old Mahmoud. “It was the best time. It was a place to play and improve, no matter where you started.
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Mahmoud began participating in BGC’s youth programs shortly after arriving in Canada in 2016.
“I remember the first words that the staff addressed to me. … Jahmaal said, ‘Hey mate, you’re going to be in my team,’” Mahmoud says. “I immediately felt included and I felt like I could try other sports, even the ones I was not good at,” he continues.
Attracted to the Boys and Girls Club of Kingston and surrounding areas to participate in the soccer league, Mahmoud quickly took part in all the different youth programs. It was the support of the staff that motivated Mahmoud to open up to new experiences. “Before, I was determined to play football,” recalls Mahmoud. “Coach Jeff was very patient with me. He taught me to try new things, and the next thing I know I was playing in the basketball league…and I loved it!
BGC’s youth programs are offered free of charge and aim to engage young people in various areas of development. From sports to art projects, music, college education, and career preparation, each activity is designed to develop a variety of skills, including communication, problem solving, and responsible decision-making.
“You see, a lot of the boys in the football league are really good players. … So the coach wanted us to focus on teamwork,” Mahmoud says. “He wanted to teach a lesson that passing the ball is a good thing. So he lined us up against the wall and showed that neither of us could outrun the ball. We learned that to speed up the game, we had to pass the ball and play as a team.
Free youth programs can only be offered with the support of key partners, such as United Way of KFL&A, the Kinsmen Club of Kingston and donations from the community at large. “We are eliminating fees to remove barriers to program access,” says Harold Parsons, Executive Director of BGC South East.
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“Adolescence is critical, and our youth programs expose young people to positive influences so they can make good choices in life,” Parsons continues. With an annual operating cost of over $200,000 and growing expenses with an expanded reach of service, community support is a critical component to keeping youth programs running. Over the past few years, the number of newcomers participating in BGC programs has doubled, further expanding the diversity of staff, members and volunteers.
“Without the club, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” recalls Mahmoud. “I found in sport a way to express myself, especially as English was a challenge for me. Sport gave me the confidence to try more and do more.
Once a member of the football league, Mahmoud is now a staff member of the BGC and runs many youth programs. “I can now pass on what I have learned to younger people,” he says. “I tell them to keep your head up, look for space and rely on your teammates. It’s great to see how well they interact with each other.
Aspiring to a career in civil engineering, Mahmoud wants to stay connected to the club.
“I really want to continue at BGC, working with young people and children, or just doing volunteer work,” says Mahmoud.
“I feel like I’ve found a community here,” he smiles.
How to make a donation
- Donations can be made online by completing the donation form on the right hand side at www.bgcsoutheast.ca.
- Credit card donations can be made by calling 613-507-3306, ext. 100 or 110.
- Checks can be made payable to BGC South East and mailed to: 1300 Bath Road, Unit A-2, Kingston, ON, K7M 4X4.
- Donors are asked to indicate whether they wish to remain anonymous or have their name published in recognition of their support. The names will be published in the weekly articles during The Kingston Whig-Standard campaign.
- A tax receipt will be issued for donations of $20 or more within two weeks.
Gary and Sherri McCabe $5,000
Cupid build $5,000
Kathy O’Brien $500
Steve and Nancy Cutway $500
William Churchill $300
Mary McColl $200
Robert and Rose Nolan $200
Stacey Roque $50
Lorne Campbell $200
Ronald Holden $100
Marian Luctkar-Flude $150
Jean Ivan Lukezich $40
Lisa Sansom, $100 per month
Bryan Wheeler, $100 a month
Sharron Wainman, $20 a month
Alison and Jean Turcotte $50
Margaret Elliot $100
Bonnie and Donald Misener $30