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Lowertown soccer team gets training to be model citizens

6 MIN READ

The Good People Soccer group is exactly what it sounds like: a group of people who want to do good, brought together by their love of sport.  

Renovat is the coach and mentor of the group of young men who meet to play soccer in Ottawa’s Lowertown neighbourhood. In between games and drills, they also have conversations about what it means to be a good citizen, and how to resolve conflict. Renovat recognizes that sport offers more than just physical health: it can be an entry point to a stronger community.  

“Sport is very amazing. It’s a tool we use to help our kids. Instead of going to have a drink, do drugs, something like that, they come and enjoy soccer, they receive mentoring, and they are well trained. We are doing sport, but we also take extra time to teach them how to behave well in their community.”

Renovat Hatungimana, coach and mentor of Good People Soccer Group
Renovat Hatungimana

Feelings of equity, inclusion, and belonging start by fostering leadership and connection 

The Good People Soccer group (or, as they like to call it, GPS) is one of the many projects supported by United Way East Ontario through a program called Concentric Circles of Care. Led by the Pinecrest Queensway Community Health Centre, Concentric Circles of Care works with partners across the city of Ottawa to support Indigenous, African, Caribbean, Black, and racialized communities in building resilience, leadership, and positive community engagement.  

Rasheedaht Sulaiman, project lead, Concentric Circles of Care
Renovat Hatungimana

“After the soccer activities, we come together to have conversations around not getting involved in criminal activities, to provide resources for the youth on how to get employment, and what to do when they are faced with hate and racism.”

GPS is just one of the many places community developers with Concentric Circles of Care hold tough conversations about hate and racism, celebrate culture, and strengthen social cohesion for groups that are often left out of the mainstream.

More than just a game 

For Frank, one of the players on GPS, the connection to Concentric Circles of Care has helped him and his teammates channel their competitive energy into pushing each other to be better people.  

“It’s not such a bad thing you know, to express your feelings. We are all human, we all have feelings. If we are talking it out, that’s the first step for conflict resolution. [The team told me] this is something really good, we didn’t know we needed it. They normally come here to play and now they are more in touch, they communicate more.”

Frank, Good People Soccer group player
Frank

Concentric Circles of Care has also supported GPS with tangible ways of making it easier for them to gather and play soccer. In order to compete in a local tournament, the team needed jerseys and a place to practice more consistently.  

United Way’s investment made new jerseys and more field time possible for the young men on GPS. Rasheedaht says something as simple as jerseys for this group “helps to increase that sense of belonging and that they are important to the community.” 

Stronger communities are key to reducing hate, violence, crime 

We know that real social change happens when we listen to the community and follow their lead. By centering the voices of marginalized groups and offering a platform to lead meaningful change, we reduce inequities. 

Concentric Circles of Care is one of the ways we support communities in fueling the change they want to see in their own neighbourhood. In Lowertown, a neighbourhood that has seen high levels of violence involving youth in recent years, providing young people with safe places to connect with trusted adults and peers is key to setting the next generation up for success. 

As a member of the United for All coalition, led by our United Way, Concentric Circles of Care demonstrates one of the models we can use to strengthen the wellbeing of marginalized communities in the face of rising hate and violence.  

Using art for self-expression and empowerment 

Alongside sports, creative arts offer another way of telling stories of resilience.  

In Sandy Hill, Rideau-Rockcliffe, Lowertown, and the Pinecrest Queensway Community Health and Resource Centre catchment areas, Concentric Circles of Care is giving power to youth through a PhotoVoice project.  

Thanks to United Way donors, Indigenous, Black, and racialized youth worked with a professional photographer, videographer and producer Craig Conoley over the course of several months. They learned how to work a camera, how to compose a strong photo, how to use lighting to their advantage, and more. Equipped with these skills, the youth were then able to tell their own story through the photos they took in their neighbourhoods.  

PhotoVoice project photos provided by the Pinecrest-Queensway  Community Health Centre.

The result is an exhibit that will be displayed at the Ottawa Art Gallery—another example of how Concentric Circles of Care brings legitimacy and celebration to the experiences of marginalized youth.  

No band-aid solutions 

United Way knows that when our communities work together with a common vision, when we think differently about problems, and when we shift power imbalances, we can change the systems that hold many people back. 

Concentric Circles of Care is one of the many ways we increase equity, social inclusion, and cohesion for communities that need it most. When you give to United Way East Ontario, your support brings us one step closer to a future where everyone thrives. 

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