Mark began his journey with HEROS as so many of our volunteers do, a passion for hockey and a desire to create a positive influence in his community. “I found out it was less about the hockey, and more using hockey as a mechanism to help the children with self-esteem and confidence and having a fun, safe place to gather on a weekly basis. It just really stuck and resonated with me, so I’ve been involved now for 12 years.”
Through the program Mark met Juma, a participant who immigrated to Canada from a Tanzanian refugee camp. Juma was five years old when he left his mom and other family behind and moved here with his aunt. Mark described Juma as the “perfect candidate for the program because he just lacked some of the self-esteem and confidence that many of the children in our program exhibit.” When Juma first started at HEROS, he described himself as a “shy kid” and he never “associated much with people.”
Juma describes the difference from when he entered the program to now as being massive. “Due to the program, like they’ve been teaching me skills like listening, respect, discipline, having fun – all those skills…they try to make you better…make you want to be a better human, better person. They’ve helped me grow into who I am now.” As a result of his athleticism and interest in sports after a few years in HEROS Juma “developed a hockey skill that was very evident.” So much so that Juma began playing in organized competitive hockey at the midget AA level, an experience he says is unforgettable. When Juma moved into a competitive hockey program Mark “and some of the other volunteers would go watch him play. And it just became evident that he just needed a little bit more support to be able to pursue hockey outside of HEROS.” Even when our HEROS grow and pursue things outside of the organization, when they need our support, we are always there for them.
Juma credits his success in the program to the accountability he felt towards Mark and the HEROS program week in and week out. He was motivated to stay away from trouble because he wanted to show up to the program with positive news to share. “It was just another line of discipline keeping me in line. Every week I would talk to Mark and we’d talk about what’s going on in my life and he’d always help me out with my school work as well,” he explained.
It’s volunteers like Mark who go beyond the ice time and take on mentorship roles that have significant impacts on kid’s lives. The results of that dedication are undeniable. Today, Mark continues to mentor Juma and provide him support. Juma is in third year university studying business commerce and is participating now as a HEROS volunteer. Both Mark and Juma explained that giving back to HEROS and being a mentor has been a gratifying experience.