How is it that two refugee families from Colombia and Syria have found a “second home” at Shotokan Karate YXE?
One might expect that soccer would be the sport of choice for children from Syria or Colombia. But for two refugee families living in Saskatoon, it is all about karate.
The kids passion for karate is due in large part to the commitment, passion and generosity of Sensei Brad and his staff at Shotokan Karate YXE.
Colombian refugee children Lina and Jhorcael discovered karate through Sensei Brad’s program at Mayfair Community School, where they were students in 2014.
Every child who walked into the school gym on registration night was welcomed and encouraged to participate. By the end of the evening, 30 kids were enjoying a workout with Sensei Brad and his staff.
“What better way to welcome families to the community than get them involved in sport?” says Sensei Brad.
Lina and Jhorcael quickly became hooked, attending karate classes three times a week at Mayfair, Westmount and Caswell schools.
Tournaments followed. Organized on shoestring budgets, the kids embarked on road trips to Brandon, Winnipeg, Calgary to compete. They stayed in discount hotels (five or six kids to room) and brought their own food. Everyone volunteered their time. The kids had a blast.
When a Syrian refugee family arrived in Saskatoon in February 2016, they hoped they had finally found safety for their four young children. They had no idea Saskatoon would be the place their kids developed a passion for karate.
The Alhendawi family arrived on the doorstep of Shotokan Karate in the winter of 2018. With limited English, parents Mahmoud and Zalikha explained to Sensei Brad their four kids (Rayan age 10, the twins Abdul and Mohamed 6 and Elaf 5) wanted to try karate. He welcomed them, took them on a tour of the facility and invited them to attend beginner classes the next day.
Within a month, all four kids had been “fitted” for their ghees (or what Sensei Brad calls “pyjamas”) and were enthusiastic
Sensei Brad’s community school program now boasts about 200 kids. The weekly classes are free and held over the noon hour or after school to ensure easy access. Sensei Brad and his staff volunteer their time.participants of the sport.
Another 100 kids including Lina, Jhorcael and the Alhendawis are enrolled in the Shotokan Karate YXE club.
Kids Sports funding has helped these children pursue their karate dreams. Both Lina and Jhorcael are now black belts. And the Alhendawi children have achieved their brown, green and orange belts. At the Karate Nationals in Edmonton this year, the children of both refugee families were in the competition. They performed well. It’s a testament to their commitment to the sport and Sensei Brad’s commitment to these kids.
Lina (right) on the podium at Nationals with her bronze medal.