Beauty returns slowly to Rwanda, a land of genocide | Valerie Fortney | Calgary Herald | April 7, 2018

Photo courtesy: Postmedia Archives

“People should go to Rwanda not despite the genocide, but because of it,” says Ferguson, whose road trip companion was his Calgary friend Jean-Claude Munyezamu, a Rwandan Canadian who escaped the country before the atrocities began to unfold, but lost three of his siblings and many other extended family members.

Today, Munyezamu, who was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Medal for his community work, is well known in these parts as the founder of Soccer Without Boundaries, a sports program for children of immigrant and low-income families in the city.

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Compelling Calgarian: Jean Claude Munyezamu | Rita Mingo | Calgary Herald | January 2, 2018

Photo courtesy: Elizabeth Cameron // Calgary Herald

Jean Claude Munyezamu knows what it’s like to be a stranger in a strange land.

“I was a refugee when I was young and I know how hard it is to make friends,” said Munyezamu, who came to Calgary 19 years ago from Rwanda. “I just did something that every child from a Third World country did, and that was street soccer.”

Eight years ago, Munyezamu created Soccer Without Boundaries in the community of Glenbrook — which has an immigrant population of 24 percent — that has helped integrate children as young as two years old into their new home through the beauty of sport and a game that is universal.

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The Homestretch: Jean Claude Munyezamu founder of Soccer Without Boundaries | Doug Dirks | CBCPlayer | November 6, 2017

To commemorate Canada 150, CBC is publishing a yearbook featuring personal stories and memories, from a cross-section of Canadians, about what it means to be a part of this country, at this point in history. Calgary’s Jean-Claude Munyezamu is featured.

Click here to listen to the full episode.

Hewitt puts Power of Focus to work with disadvantaged teens | David Parker | Calgary Herald | October 12, 2017

Hewitt never lost his interest in soccer and wondered how he could use his business coaching skills to help youth.

He had the good fortune to meet Jean-Claude Munyezamu, a Rwandan who has coached immigrant youths in Calgary for seven years through his organization, Soccer Without Boundaries.

Hewitt and Jean-Claude now work together meeting refugee teens every Saturday morning in the Glenbrook community. Hewitt enjoys the sport but takes the time to empower disadvantaged youth with essential life skills.

The youths learn about the power of relationships, routine, resourcefulness, awareness and focus. Hewitt also led eight boys to start a business that would raise money to help fund their soccer and support three charities.

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Teen Calgary soccer player gets a chance to play in the UK | Valerie Fortney | Calgary Herald | April 17, 2017

Photo courtesy: Ryan McLeod // Postmedia Network

Last week, Moneer Mehalhel saw three big dreams come true: he flew to Europe for the first time, got to ride on the London Eye giant Ferris wheel and played soccer alongside some of the best young players on the planet. “It was all pretty exciting,” he says with a big smile.

When I ask him if his experiences on the soccer — on that side of the Atlantic, football — field were just a tad nerve-wracking, he almost laughs. “Nervous? No.”

That doesn’t seem like an off-the-wall question to pose to someone who’s just turned 14 years old. Then again, Mehalhel isn’t your average teenager. His recent trip came by way of invitation from British football club West Ham United to participate in an elite training camp.

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Transforming immigrant kids’ lives, one soccer game at a time | Valerie Fortney | Calgary Herald | July 27, 2016

On one side of the field, it’ll be kids, some who don’t yet know English; on the other, adult members of the Calgary Police Service.

When I ask Jean-Claude Munyezamu if that seems like an unfair matchup for a soccer game, he lets out a hearty laugh. “Oh, no, we’re going to let the kids win that one,” he explains. “Then we’ll mix the teams and the real competition begins.”

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Calgary Police kick off match against kids from Soccer Without Boundaries | Tricia Lo | CBC News | August 12, 2016

They don’t all speak English, but they do all speak soccer, and they just kicked off a sweaty “conversation” with Calgary cops. 

For the first time, kids from Soccer Without Boundaries took on Calgary police in a match meant to build trust between kids from diverse backgrounds and officers.

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Rwandan genocide survivor brings kids together through soccer | Jennifer Friesen | Calgary Metro News | April 10, 2016

Photo courtesy: Calgary Metro

Jean-Claude Munyezamu said it started back in Kenya.

After escaping the Rwandan genocide, the 19-year-old found his way to the Dadaab refugee camp in 1993. He began teaching the children how to make soccer balls out of discarded plastic bags, just as he did when he was young. Within an hour, more than 100 children had gathered.

Neighbourhood Grants embody the soul of our city | Claire Griffin | Calgary Economic Development | April 6, 2016

Ten local groups made their best pitches at the annual Soul of the City Neighbour Grants Pitch Night before the audience had the difficult job of picking five winners to put into action their ideas to improve, enhance, or revitalize their community or neighbourhood.

The pitches – similar to those delivered on the popular TV show Dragons Den – were made to a panel of judges and before a crowd of people who packed the Glenbow Theatre on Tuesday and voted for five groups of Calgarians that were each awarded $10,000 grants for their projects.

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Will Ferguson recalls road trip at centre of his new book | Gilbert Ngabo | Calgary Metro News | October 15, 2015

Reading Will Ferguson’s recent book, Road Trip Rwanda, is almost exactly like being in Rwanda. I know — I lived there for 25 years before coming to Canada.
From the seriousness of law enforcers to the mundane activities and the craziness of an entire nation about soccer, the Giller Prize-winning author managed to beautifully capture it all in a 350-page memoir that hit bookshelves early this month.

Will Ferguson: “There’s more to Rwanda than genocide” | Shadrach Kabango | CBCRadio | October 6, 2015

Photo courtesy: Will Ferguson // Penguin Random House

When Jean-Claude Munyezamu first invited friend and fellow soccer dad Will Ferguson to his native Rwanda, the Canadian author said he didn’t want to go. Cut to Ferguson being emasculated by a gorilla while exploring the East African country — just one of many adventures chronicled in his new book “Road Trip Rwanda”. Munyezamu, who narrowly escaped the 1994 genocide, led the Giller Prize-winning writer on a true journey of discovery. Yes, Ferguson met Rwandans recovering from one of the worst mass killings in modern history — but he also broadened his horizons to include all the beauty, humour and vibrancy of the nation. Both men join Shad, himself a son of Rwanda, to discuss the perspective-changing journey.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

Return to Rwanda | Will Ferguson | Canadian Geographic | April 1, 2014

Photo courtesy: Will Ferguson

I first met Jean-Claude on a summery soccer pitch in Calgary several years earlier. Our children were on the same under-eight community soccer team (“Go Tigers!”) and Jean- Claude was one of the volunteer coaches.
He later set up Soccer Without Boundaries, a local program that integrates immigrant and refugee children into their communities through sports, and which includes boys and girls from Syria, Somalia, Congo, Afghanistan, the Philippines and more.

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I am my brother’s keeper | Sharon McLeay | Strathmore Times | May 24, 2013

Last week, on May 17, Strathmore High School (SHS) students listened to Jean-Claude Munyezamu’s life account of the genocide in Rwanda, Africa. He recounted the lessons he learned from his experience.

Saturday soccer club seeks a field of its own | Karry Taylor | Calgary Journal | August 20, 2013

On a sunny Saturday morning, a steady stream of children make their way to a playground in the southwest community of Glenbrook. There is cheerful chaos as friends are greeted, shin pads strapped on and shoelaces tightened up.
After everybody has their equipment sorted out, the older kids stretch and run laps around an adjacent field. Later they will clean garbage and debris off the field before engaging in soccer drills and a scrimmage game. Occasionally they have to clean up broken bottles. Off to the side, a small group of three and four-year-olds energetically chase balls around tiny pylons, their jerseys hanging down to their knees.

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