Since I was very young, I always had the wish to travel to a different country and give back to youth in need. I always thought about giving back in Africa, but one day when I was walking in the halls of Brock University, I saw an advertisement of a solidarity opportunity, being offered by the Brock University Solidarity Experiences Abroad (SEA) chapter. The advertisement had several destinations to choose from, and although Africa was always a dream, Brazil was the most affordable at the moment, and the one that caught my attention the most, knowing the beauty of Rio de Janeiro and also the amount of poverty that can be found in the favelas.
“SEA was one of the vehicles that inspired me to pursuit my dream of giving back to youth in need through the NBA”
It was at this moment that I decided to register for my first ever experience abroad with SEA, not knowing exactly what I was getting myself into, but being aware that with other passionate students and professionals, I will have the opportunity to make an impact in the life of kids in need from a different country.
At this time of my life, I was running my own basketball camps in my home town of Sault Ste. Marie during the summer time, and completing a degree in Sports Management at Brock during the school year. Because of my shared passion for sports and charity, I wanted to come up with an initiative where I could link both. I wanted to make something special and find a way to use sports to give back throughout my experience in Brazil. After reflecting for a few days, my first idea was to use part of the budget that I had from my summer camps, to make t-shirts for the kids in the favelas. My second idea was to prepare a sports camps, which we ended up naming “Physical Activity Campaign”.
Throughout my experience in Brazil, I not only had the opportunity to implement this camp in the favelas with other volunteers, but I also had the chance to give back in other campaigns that were already established in the curriculum of SEA, such as teaching English, head lice campaigns and blood pressure campaigns. At the end of this trip, I was inspired to take apart in another initiative of this kind but with more responsibilities and a larger role in leading a group.
A few months later upon my return from Brazil, it was time to start my final year of University, and I had to complete an independent study in order to finalize my Sports Management degree. After taking the time to reflect what could be the best way to do a sports specific solidarity program by linking SEA and Sport Management, I approached the director of SEA and the Chair of Sports Management, with the intentions for the two programs to link and develop a Sports for Development course, where students would receive university credits by coming up with a sports for development project, and afterwards implement the literature learned in class, first hand in Peru. I always believed that the best classes are the ones where you get to put in practice what you learn, and I thought that giving students an opportunity to travel internationally by giving back through sports, could be a life-changing experience, especially after experiencing myself the impact that SEA can have on students.
After several months of meetings, research and preparation, the initiative turned into reality. Brock’s Sports Management program and SEA were able to implement a Sports for Development course, based on a curriculum where those students accepted into the class, would have the opportunity to experience Peru, and put in practice their sport
for development knowledge by giving back to teachers and youth in need of Peru.
After this second solidarity experience, I was not ready to leave my passion for charity, and I wanted to take new challenges. Not too long ago, an opportunity to give back through the NBA in India came knocking on my door, and it was time to take the new challenge. Between October and December of 2014, I had the opportunity to work for 3 months in the state of Kolkata, India through the NBA, having had the opportunity to work with approximately 150 schools, 200 PE teachers, and 1,500 students. This experience allowed me to give back to people through the game I love, something I always dreamed with.
Today, I can say that SEA gave me an opportunity to reach my dream of giving back to youth in need for the first time, allowing me to grow in a personal and professional level, and inspiring me to pursuit my passion of giving back through the game of basketball in other countries. I would highly recommend SEA to anyone. You will not only better yourself in so many aspects whether it be professional or spiritually, but you will also meet individuals that have the same passion as you, and will make friends that will last a life-time. When many people come together for a good reason, such as charity, the end result always ends up being extremely rewarding.