Graduating students from J. L. Crowe were looking to contribute to a good cause when a Castlegar woman inspired them to kick in for a team of impoverished African youth.
The Crowe grad class raised funds to purchase 20 jerseys with the school’s name, colours and logo to donate to a boy’s soccer team in Africa.
“We talked about it at grad council meeting and we wanted to help kids our own age,” said grad president Amber Oosthuyzen. “Lots of them give up everything to play this sport and it’s the only reprieve from their life.”
The plight of the Rehma boys soccer club for 13- to 19-year-old youths struck a chord with the Class of 2011. It was something small but significant; a tangible gesture that would make a difference to a group of young adults halfway around the world.
Nikole MacGregor, a Castlegar resident, first travelled to Kenya as a student with Oosthuyzen and her family, and has since visited and even lived in Kenya for almost two years. She has worked at hospitals and orphanages, with Muslim women and with impoverished children and families from the Kongowea slums near Mombasa.
Upon seeing the desperate conditions and lack of positive male influences, she and a Kenyan friend started the soccer team as a positive outlet to help African youths grow and develop.
“My friend coaches them but it’s a bit more of a mentorship program,” said MacGregor. “He not only coaches them in soccer but coaches them in life skills, teaches them about responsibility and community and just basic life skills.”
The Rehma soccer team has had to collect money from the community in order to rent jerseys for their games. For MacGregor the jerseys are a welcome gift but the potential for a better education is even more pressing.
“They are a very good team so it’s important for them to have a good jersey, to look good, too. Now we’re looking to get a couple of them into school, a few of them are 19 and have never gone to high school.”
The 22-year-old is moving back to Kenya in two weeks and will present the jerseys to the team. She plans to continue her work with youth, hoping to create a soccer academy or youth centre in the slum.
As for the graduates of Crowe, they will soon be able to see the results of their efforts.
“We wanted the grads to feel a part of the change, we wanted them to be right involved with it, and so with this, Nikole can send pictures and stories from the boys so it becomes very personal for us as well,” said Oosthuyzen.