It’s about way more than soccer.
When the founders of Caribbean Canadian Artistic Stars (CCAS Inc.) talk about their programming for marginalized and newcomer girls, the foundation of their work is equitable and inclusive quality sport coupled with art. But really, they have larger ambitions than that. They’re interested in developing the whole person through art, performance, mentorship and physical literacy. That’s the vision of Uhanna and Obosa Obaizamomwan, who founded the organization in 2012.
“We want to break down the barriers that come with being a woman in sport, and the stigma that comes with it. Also, within our soccer program we will have mentorship opportunities,” Uhanna said, after her organization was selected for additional funding as part of a pilot project with Canadian Women & Sport and Sport for Life.
CCAS Inc. is a multi-service, community-based organization with a strong focus on art and sport through resident engagement, capacity building and anti-oppression. For a decade now, the organization has been strategically building the health and well-being of the Jane and Finch area of Toronto in collaboration with residents, community leaders, community groups, organizations and partners from within the local community and beyond.
The majority of their participants come from difficult upbringings and backgrounds. Many are new immigrants to Canada. The programming is intended to give them guidance and community as they integrate into society. Sometimes leadership can take a simple form, such as when Uhanna insisted that one attendee remove her hat while indoors.
“I had to ask myself why she was always wearing a hat, and it was because she had low self-esteem and didn’t have confidence in her own self, so every time she came in I asked her politely ‘please take off your hat’. I told her this is a safe zone for everybody, so nobody can laugh or say anything, because we’re all one family,” she said.
“Pretty soon she was coming in and she was confident. She went from having no dance skills at all to she blew up. This is the result when we teach to love and respect one another.”
They also direct that care outwards, as CCAS Inc. contributes to the community by distributing back-to-school packs, food supplies and Christmas hampers with free gifts for kids. They supply senior citizens with food hampers and offer free dance lessons to anyone who wants to get involved.
“Many of the youths who have been with us have been able to go to college. We help seek scholarships for them, and mentor them through the process. Really, it’s about giving them the confidence they need to succeed,” said Obosa.
Ultimately, they would like to incorporate multisport into their programming. Seeing their operation expand is exciting, according to Sport for Life Manager of Strategic Initiatives, Francesca Jackman.
“What I find so inspiring about working with CCAS Inc. is the way they commit themselves to their participants. The work they’re doing has the potential to create an enormous impact in the lives of these girls and young women, and from my perspective Sport for Life is so fortunate to have partnered with them and to be able to learn from their community sport experiences.”