'You don't need to speak English to play soccer': Calgary camp embraces cultural differences

A soccer camp for children in Calgary is using the sport to create community and bring new Canadians together — despite participants speaking different languages and coming from more than 30 countries.

The organization, Soccer Without Boundaries, says its free summer camp and year-round program at the Glenbrook Community Association welcomes new Canadians, refugees, low-income families and anyone who enjoys the game and wants to get involved.

The executive director and founder, Jean-Claude Munyezamu, says he came up with the idea when he came across newcomer kids in his neighbourhood.

"I saw that the kids needed something to do. They were getting in trouble, there was graffiti and there was shoplifting in the neighbourhood," he said.

"So I brought a soccer ball and invited the parents and that's how we started."

Dan McGarvey/CBC

Nine years later, Munyezamu says more than 100 children are part of the program and come from countries all across the globe, including Syria, Sudan, Congo, Colombia and Afghanistan.

"You don't need to speak English to play soccer, so this is something that kids have in common," he said. 

Dan McGarvey/CBC

Munyezamu explains that it's important for the kids to develop relationships and get a sense of belonging in their communities, and that another way to do that is to bring parents together through volunteer opportunities at the camp.

Wedad al-Houari, told CBC News she has benefited from making the connections.

"I myself was an isolated parent and Jean-Claude was one of the first people to bring me out of that isolation," said al-Houari.