January 30th, 2018
Since 2010, MJKO (Mentoring Juniors Kids Organization) has operated as a volunteer-run organization providing free fitness and leadership classes to thousands of young people across Toronto from all backgrounds, ethnic groups, fitness and social levels. Located in the neighbourhood of Parkdale, MJKO is an incredibly empowering initiative that uses the sport of non-contact boxing to promote positive and healthy lifestyle choices, with a mandate to get kids moving and building community.
As I sit down to chat with Executive Director and Program Manager, Miranda Kamal, a group of young girls are excitedly coming in to the boxing studio. Although MJKO offers co-ed programming on most days, Fridays are dedicated to a program called FAB (Fit, Active, Brave), specifically designed to empower girls to get active and gain confidence.
Most of the kids attending MJKO programming start in grade four and stay for three to four years, some of them now work as youth coaches, inspiring other kids in the community by doing something they love, and although the majority of kids attending programming are not competitive, there is a stream of athletes that is currently training to participate in various tournaments and championships across the country.
As a new Second Harvest recipient agency, MJKO visits our warehouse on a weekly basis, to pick-up nutritious snacks for the kids attending programming. In running a program with a strong focus on health and fitness, it is important for Miranda to provide healthy snacks, and she raves about the fresh strawberries & pineapples, crunchy peppers and nutritious dairy that she has been receiving from Second Harvest. Learning about food and nutrition is an important part of programming as well, so it is important to get the kids involved and they often help to prepare the snacks.
“Before, food was very limited, so kids would get only a small portion because our budget is so low. Now, kids are getting more nourishment and are incredibly excited when they come in and see a full fridge! The quality of food is amazing and kids are excited about trying fruits they don’t normally eat.” Miranda Kamal
I feel lucky to do the work that I do, says Miranda. It is inspiring to see all the kids using boxing to build a strong sense of self, while learning the importance of teamwork and community. “We want to bring kids together to learn how to relate to, and support, one another. We believe that the earlier we reach the kids, the more successful and long-term results will be.”