Sport has often been a vehicle to help empower and encourage people of all creeds, and races to come together as people of the same world; to create worlds in which ethnic and religious backgrounds do not define who we are. The feeling of being part of a team will do all of that.
At the Boabab Inclusive Empowerment Society, CEO, Felix Kongyuy, with the help of his caring and vigilant program coordinator, Shayfaye Baylis, are trying to bring that core principle of the good of sport good values to an ever-growing group of young (aged 4-19) lower-income children in the program who are looking for something to be part of, something that can help shape their identities for the better for years to come.
Each Thursday at the Chuck Bailey Recreation Center, Shay, along with coaches that the program hires, work with kids on practice drills as well as non-competitive games to get the kids to learn about the importance of teamwork, physical education, and personal growth as part of the Inclusive Soccer Program.
But goals are what they are, what matters are the results.
As Shay pointed out from here time in charge of the Thursday Inclusive Soccer program, “there’s a difference in the children when they come” says Shay who also takes it upon herself to build a good rapport with the parents who are always sitting along the sidelines of the gym at the CBRC.
What was great to hear was that from Felix to Shay to the kids who are participating, I heard variations of the same line, “It’s always a fun environment to be around”.
In speaking to one of the kids, Adam, who would turn out to be the star of the game that day I visited the program, scoring a handful of goals, told me, “they [the staff] are really nice. They help you out if you don’t get something or need to work on something“.
He has made many friends over the year or so that he’s program and gets his skills from watching his favorite team, Barcelona
For Shay and Felix, the smiles that take to the faces of the children who join the free program is worth all the effort they put into the program.
It’s more than just fun and games, though, even if it may not seem like that as an outsider looking in.
Felix has put together a system that allows kids around the age of 13-14 begin to mentor the younger children in the program. This puts the elder kids in charge of making sure the younger ones are having fun, including themselves in the activities, and making sure they are feeling comfortable with other kids.
When speaking with mentors, Cindy, and her friend, Jeffery, I got a first-hand experience of seeing that same positive atmosphere and attitude that is an undeniable part of this program.
Both Cindy and Jeffery, “really enjoy helping people” as this is one of few volunteer opportunities that they take part in. Cindy explained that “the opportunity to make new friends, meet people and help out the community” is what makes the program so great. For Jeffery, there was also a bit of nostalgia even at his age of 16, “now that I’m older, it’s nice to see these younger kids play soccer and help them grow.”
It should also be noted that neither Cindy or Jeffery play soccer, they simply enjoy the Inclusive Soccer program because they enjoy helping a group of young people to have more fun and strength in a life that hasn’t been so kind to them.
To qualify as part of the Inclusive Soccer Program or any of the Boabab Inclusive Empowerment Society’s programs they run, the household must be making less than 20,000 dollars annually.
The way that Felix’s kind and caring personality has shaped this particular scheme of the society matched with the thoughtful leadership and direction of Shay, not to mention the wonderful mentors like Cindy and Jeffery, and the kind-hearted players like Adam, there are few initiatives in Surrey, and B.C. for that matter, that bring a warmth to your heart like the Inclusive Soccer Program.
For more information on the Inclusive Soccer program and the Boabab Inclusive Empowerment Society check out their website http://baobabinclusive.ca/. Also, feel free to contact the organization directly via a message on their site or by phone at 604-585-6775.
Whether you qualify for the program or not, your help is always appreciated either by donation or by helping the Boabab Inclusive Empowerment Society directly.