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.

GenNexters bring the summer.

GenNext members at National Leasing capped off a successful donation drive with a BBQ block party on Thursday.

The drive, called Giving Kids a Summer, collected summer items like sunscreen, bug spray, hats, sunglasses, and sporting equipment gathered for distribution to inner city children and families through Spence Neighbourhood Association (SNA) – a United Way partner agency.

National Leasing's GenNext BBQ

“When summer months come we don’t always realize that some children don’t have these things,” said GenNext member Tess Klachefsky.

Donations for National Leasing  Giving Kids a Summer drive

National Leasing’s GenNext donation drive collected items for kids at Spence Neighbourhood Association

Donation boxes were placed in the National Leasing offices, as well as those of corporate neighbours and BBQ attendees Pollard Banknote, Payworks, Canadian Western Bank and Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries.

Money raised from the BBQ was also slated to be used to purchase more items needed by children who attend SNA programming.

GenNext members at National Leasing

GenNext members at National Leasing

National Leasing has a strong GenNext presence, with about 15 members, and is one of the first workplaces to join United Way’s GenNext Ambassador Program.

“I think GenNext is fantastic for the city,” said Jay Leslie, a founding member of GenNext at National Leasing and an Ambassador.

“It’s an opportunity to network and an opportunity to give back.”

Jay Leslie talks about the donation drive and GenNext

Jay Leslie talks about the donation drive and GenNext

The GenNext team at National Leasing has also taken part in United Way Days of Caring, a poverty simulation to learn about the challenges faced by low income Winnipeggers, and they are planning a fall mixer.

National Leasing GenNext BBQ

GenNext BBQ at National Leasing

Dan Robinson, a GenNext manager at United Way, thanked the crowd for their support and generosity. He invited people to visit him at a table to sign up for the GenNext newsletter.

GenNext is “not about giving money, it’s more about getting engaged with peers and with the work that United Way does,” Dan said.

GenNext BBQ at National Leasing

A BBQ attendee signs up for the GenNext newsletter

United Way’s GenNext program offers young professionals an opportunity to create meaningful social change in Winnipeg while connecting with like-minded peers and having scads of fun.

GenNext BBQ at National Leasing

To learn more visit www.unitedwaywinnipeg.ca/gennext or email  gennext@unitedwaywinnipeg.mb.ca

GenNext BBQ at National Leasing

GenNext BBQ at National Leasing

National Leasing GenNext BBQ

GenNext BBQ at National Leasing