Hoop 2 Hope

In a political climate where scarcity is often assumed, and in a community that is often unfairly characterized by needs and problems, the real assets of a community can often get overlooked.

One of those incredible community assets in the Jane Finch area is the work of Benjamin Osei and the Hoop 2 Hope boys’ basketball program.

Hoop 2 Hope has two divisions; one for high school boys and the other for elementary and middle school students. The high school boys gather on Fridays from 6pm to 10pm at Westview Secondary School south gym, and the younger group meets Saturdays 6pm to 9pm at Oakdale Community Centre. These programs run from September through June.

There is plenty of basketball at each meeting, but the program’s goal is to walk with boys in their journey to becoming men. To do that, the program includes the services of many volunteers. These volunteers are older men who are further on in the journey of life and have a wealth of experience and knowledge. The idea is for men to walk with boys through the most formative years of their lives.

The boys who participate come to play ball, and they get to do a lot of that, but the leaders also take time to help them develop some skills that will help them navigate their everyday world. The leaders talk with boys about developing their character in real life situations. Boys are finding different ways to respond to difficult circumstances. They learn how wisdom, perseverance, self control, compassion, gentleness and other values can make them better persons and how that will make the world a better place.  

All of this basketball and conversation culminates in an annual rite of passage celebration. The boys’ chronological development is acknowledged and celebrated at ages 13 and 18. Instead of stumbling or falling into manhood, the boys and the community around them stop, recognize, and celebrate their movement from a boy to a man.

Hoop 2 Hope knows that it is just one piece of each boy’s life. The program actively seeks to partner with families, schools and community centres. So beyond the doors of the gym, leaders like Benjamin are at work with young men as they make their way from boys to men.

Benjamin and Hoop 2 Hope are one of this community’s finest assets. They are an asset that is producing real capital, the next generation of community and world leaders.

New project looks to stop youth violence and deal with impacts

For Abdulkadir Nur, the issue of violence in the community matters.

“It always seems to overshadow all the good that happens in communities,” says the Jane-Finch native who added that all residents of a neighbourhood are affected by the stigma of crime.  

“The idea of community violence puts a target on the whole community whereas in reality, it may just be a concentrated set of individuals contributing to all the crime and violence.”

Abdulkadir is one of four ‘mentors’ that will lead the Community Healing Project; it is a five-year federally funded project that will seek to make interventions in the lives of youth living in neighbourhoods that have witnessed violence.

In addition to the ‘mentors’, some 250 ‘healers’ will be trained over the life of the project to do outreach in the same neighbourhoods in order to provide a space to discuss issues such as mental health, provide supports for services and employment as well as building trust and relationships.

According to the City of Toronto, more than a 1,000 youth stand to benefit from the project and the projectr is in partnership with Stella’s Place, a non-profit youth mental health organization, and local organizations.

At a December press conference to announce the program’s launch, Canada’s Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair defended the program and the federal funds being put towards it.

“The program that we are funding today will make a real and lasting and positive difference in these kids’ lives,” Blair said.

As a graduate of the program’s pilot himself, Abdulkadir says the program also provides space for youth to look at how they can contribute to making their neighbourhoods safe.

“This program will help youth affected by violence by giving them an opportunity to be heard and voice their opinions on what is going on in their given communities and what they believe to be the reason for the violence.”

The issue of gun violence once again came into spotlight in 2018 after a record 51 gun-related homicides were recorded in the year.

In September however, Police told residents at a community event in Jane and Finch that firearm incidents were down in the area.