“I can do anything I want to.” Art helps Jessica find her path in life.

Jessica’s love of art began when she was a participant at a program supported by Winnipeggers’ donations to United Way.

Today, she is employed by the same program, earning a living by making and teaching art to other young Winnipeggers.

Jessica finds her path through art.

“Once Jessie got here, she really found her path in life.”

It’s a chance for kids to express themselves in a safe, supportive environment during the critical hours after school. See how Jessica’s passion for community is her guiding light.

“The kids feel it. They KNOW that somebody cares.”

After-school programs give kids a sense of belonging, a family away from home.

Getting homework done, making friends, learning to cook, feeling cared about, knowing your neighbourhood. It’s the small securities that build kid’s confidence and so they can grow up strong.


Inner-city program for children “like a family”

Immigrant brothers thrived with help from United Way-supported drop-in program

Mahmoud Sesay likes to be called Junior, after his dad. He came to Canada from war-torn Sierra Leone with his mother and brothers in 2003, when he was just seven. A year later he learned that his father had been killed by gunfire.

In 2006 Junior was 10 and his brother, Will, was eight. They were playing together in Winnipeg’s West End. The neighbourhood is in the heart of the federal electoral district of Winnipeg Centre — reported this year to have the third-highest child poverty rate in Canada.

Will (left) and Junior Sesay in front of the recreation centre where they found belonging and mentorship through Spence Neighbourhood Association’s United Way-supported Building Belonging program.

Will (left) and Junior Sesay in front of the recreation centre where they found belonging and mentorship through Spence Neighbourhood Association’s United Way-supported Building Belonging program.

They were approached by Jamil Mahmood, executive director of United Way partner agency Spence Neighbourhood Association (SNA). Back then Jamil was co-ordinator of SNA’s Building Belonging drop-in program (BB), and he invited Junior and Will to sign up.

“It felt just like a family there. It was just kind of a great place to be,” Junior says.
“We made so many friends, too, even people that we know still today.”

The United Way-supported program offers kids aged six to 12 a nutritious snack, activities and outings, help with homework, and positive mentorship after school and during summer months.

Junior says for him and Will growing up it was the place to be — the place to see friends and avoid trouble.

“It’s a great thing for the community. If it wasn’t there, where would the kids go? It’s just a really safe place to go.”

The brothers also participated in SNA’s sports programs, playing basketball for the Inner City Jr. Wesmen team. Their passion for basketball let them to commute to Charleswood for high school, where they both became provincial high school champs with the Oak Park Raiders.

Today they attend University of Winnipeg, and credit SNA and its programming for helping keep their lives on a positive track.

“We were around people who were great and encouraged us. Without that… we probably would have gone down a different path,” Junior says.

United Way Winnipeg supports 36 agencies that serve children and youth with more than 40 after school and summer programs, 12 leadership/mentorship, and 8 counselling and crisis intervention programs. About 75,000 participated last year.

Help support children and youth in Winnipeg —
donate online at www.UnitedWayWinnipeg.ca/help or call 204-477-UWAY (8929) today.

Originally published by Canstar Community News.

“Sometimes kids need somebody.”

Caitlynn found a future at a United Way supported after-school program at YMCA-YWCA. Here she tells her story in her own words.

Have you ever had trouble with kids in your neighbourhood? Something innocent like a knocked over garbage can or mailbox. Maybe a little more scary like having your windows egged. Perhaps a group of teens were acting out and made you feel unsafe. Or stole something. Did you yell at them? Did you call the police?

Caitlynn finds a future thanks to after-school programs.

My name is Caitlynn. I was one of those kids. I was heading down the wrong path.  I was stealing. I was doing drugs. I was getting into trouble and I didn’t care. But an after-school program in my neighbourhood helped me turn my life around and care about something other than myself.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t like magic. The first time I went there, I got kicked out because Ken, the program manager, caught me smoking drugs under the back stairwell.  Not long after I got caught stealing and the judge told my mom I could work my fines off.  She brought me back there.

Ken made me clean toilets, do dusting…stuff like that. I hated it. It sucked. But I had to do it so I kept coming back. And over time I started to realize that they do some pretty cool stuff. There’s a gym. A climbing wall. And all these kids come here every day and have a great time.  It looked like so much fun, so I asked Ken if there was any other way I could help. He got me working with some of the younger kids, supervising, making sure they didn’t get into trouble…didn’t get hurt. It was hard, but I liked it. So I kept coming back, even when I didn’t have to anymore.

I was in a really bad place when I first discovered this program.  Meeting Ken, and him putting me through all the programs and things, it helped me stay off the streets and doing drugs and become a better person.

That’s what I want to do with my life. I want to go back to school and go into social work. I want to help kids because sometimes they need somebody to be a role model for them and I’d really like to be that. I’d really like to be there for them the way Ken was there for me.

P.S. I’m so proud. I became a United Way donor for the first time this campaign!

United Way Youth Strike Base Camp for Epic Climb.

United Way youth volunteers will be climbing the equivalent of Mount Everest on Sunday, March 20. They’re doing it to raise awareness and money for youth programs and services in our city. It’s all part of United Way’s very first UP Stair Climb event.

This Friday, March 18th between 7:30am and 1:30pm, please visit us at Base Camp, at the foot of 201 Portage, where students will be camped outside, taking pledges, answering questions and preparing for Sunday’s climb. We’ll have coffee to keep you warm as well as unique content for your audience. Hope to see you there!

Participants will scale 33 stories and 600 stairs to the top of 201 Portage – Winnipeg’s tallest building – at the corner of Portage & Main, not once, not twice, but a total of 86 times. That’s over 50,000 stairs or 29,029 feet – the equivalent of Everest! A lofty goal indeed, shadowed only by the students’ ultimate goal: to give all kids in our city an opportunity to choose graduation over gang life, a chance to live their dreams, and the skills and confidence to set and achieve goals of their own.

Money raised will support programs that keep kids safe and active during the critical hours when they not in school; programs proven to help kids – particularly those living in low-income situations – improve grades, behaviour and well-being.