MJKO is a South Parkdale charity that uses mentoring and leadership training to promote positive, healthy lifestyle choices for children and youth. With certified coaches, MJKO builds Community Champions by focusing on the needs of the whole person through daily, free access to non-contact boxing, which includes physical training (skipping, shadow boxing, defense moves, etc.) and mental skills training (meditation, social skills building, etc.). MJKO programs allow students to develop an appreciation for physical fitness, inclusive communities, mindfulness, healthy eating and volunteerism.
MJKO was co-founded by Ibrahim and Miranda Kamal in 2010 to share the life skills they learned through boxing. Miranda is a survivor of sexual assault as a teen and rediscovered her strength as a competitive boxer. Ibrahim, grew up in one of Toronto’s priority neighborhoods and went on to become an eight-time National Boxing Champion. Both Miranda and Ibrahim know firsthand how sport can change one’s life for the better.
- All things are possible with training, preparation and belief (confidence);
- Everyone has a duty to maintain and improve their community.
- All children and youth should have access to high quality, free fitness based programming.
- Physical fitness is a cornerstone for a healthy, happy and balanced life.
- Positive relationships among people are the foundation of life.
Programs During COVID 19
Despite the challenge, we are pleased to report that we have delivered over 600 boxing classes to allow youth participants to ensure exercise and positive mental health is part of their new pandemic daily routine. Classes delivered to multiple youth groups and on various platforms and include:
- Daily live “at home” boxing technique classes delivered by certified coaches and a youth “assistant coach” who is provided with a $10 stipend to create and deliver a portion of the workout with the head coach.
- A six-week at home YouTube beginner boxing series which young people can access on their own schedule. These classes have encouraged our participants to form routines that positively impact their physical and mental health
- Weekly boxing programs for children living in foster care, in partnership with Pathstone Mental Health and Mountain Plains Mental Health in Edmonton.
- Weekly private beginner boxing class for Toronto District School Board students. This started as a class for International students struggling with belonging but has transformed into any student or teacher wanting to take advantage of our free class.
- Weekly private classes for Pathstone Mental Health Youth Justice Unit
- Monthly meditation classes lead by Spiritual Healer Sally Santiago
- Collaborative events (talent show, penal program, meditation and karaoke) with Coach Amy in Manila, in the Philippians supporting an orphanage and home for survivors of human trafficking.
We have been focusing on creating opportunities for youth to connect and laugh as teammates outside of our boxing classes during our social programs like karaoke, a cooking show led by the families and trivia which run three times a week for students and their families.
Additionally, MJKO’s post-class “snack program” has transformed into an Emergency Food program for 133 families within our South Parkdale neighbourhood every Saturday, providing over $300,000 of healthy produce, dairy and proteins. We have a waitlist for this program.
MJKO provides the following to over 1500 participants annually:
- A fun and inclusive atmosphere for children to engage in athletics with certified coaches.
- An innovative approach to youth mental health, using the sport of non-contact boxing as a tool for coping with mental health related challenges such as aggression, trauma, anxiety, depression, grief, and suicidal thoughts;
- Access to nutritious food at every program;
- A free March break and summer day camp for children ages 5-18;
- Volunteer positions, mentorship and paid employment opportunities for youth.
Mentoring Juniors Kids Organization (MJKO) was co-founded by Ibrahim and Miranda Kamal. As a survivor of sexual assault at 16, Miranda took up the sport of boxing as part of her healing process. Later in life, she entered the ring as a competitive boxer before sustaining a serious spine injury that was not boxing related. Unable to box again, Kamal decided to use everything she had learned to give back to the community.
Together with Ibrahim Kamal, an eight time National Boxing Champion, they created the Toronto based charity, MJKO with the core principals of Train, Prepare, and Believe! Ibrahim grew up in one of Toronto’s priority neighborhoods and knows firsthand how sport can change one’s life for the better. He has represented Canada in over 20 countries boxing.
Since 2010, MJKO has operated as a volunteer-run organization under Miranda’s leadership, providing free fitness and leadership classes to thousands of young people across Toronto.
MJKO serves Toronto’s most vulnerable youth. The majority live below the poverty line with 15% of them having one or both parents, dead and struggling with food insecurity. They are young people who are in desperate need of high quality and affordable (i.e. free) tools for coping with mental health related challenges such as aggression, bullying, anxiety, stress, depression, grief, and suicidal thoughts. They are high-risk candidates for gang affiliation and criminal behavior.
Our programs operate in South Parkdale (SP). The youth we serve come from a variety of backgrounds. Many students have self-identify as Tibetan, Roma, Bangladeshi, Somalian, Gambian and first-generation Canadians. Many MJKO youth feel unsafe within their community. Incidences of violence, often due to the mental health crisis, are a daily occurrence in our neighbourhood. Food scarcity is a big problem for many MJKO children and youth.
The neighbourhood of South Parkdale (SP) runs from Springhurst Ave, up to Queen Street West from Dufferin Street, and over to Roncesvalles Avenue, with approx. 22,000 residents. In 2011, the Toronto Police ranked SP 9th out of 140 Toronto neighbourhoods for the most assault occurrences, and things have not improved since this initial report. “South Parkdale residents have the highest rate of hospitalizations for Mental Health Conditions and Ambulatory Care Sensitive Conditions,” noted the Ontario Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network.
In the past four years MJKO has successfully managed the following programs and partnerships.
Ontario Trillium Foundation 2014: I’M A CHAMP
This program promotes physical activity for personal betterment, while increasing community sport and recreation sector capacity. I’M A CHAMP focuses on the 3 stages of the Long Term Athlete Development Plan: FUNdamentals, Learning to Train and Active for Life. MJKO has exceeded targets on this project with respect to program delivery, attendance and volunteer training commitments.
Toronto Foundation Vital Youth 2014: Take the Lead
This program provides leadership training and boxing certifications for youth leaders. Participants go on to successfully host neighbourhood games for their peers. The youth involved in Take the Lead acquire 3 certifications: FUNdamentals Sports Movements, Boxing Ontario Level One Coaching and CPR/First aid.
PHE Canada: We Belong
This program focuses on physical activity as a means of welcoming newcomer youth and their families into their community. MJKO embraced assets in the community to engage newcomer youth, with the end goal of increased physical activity participation.
Toronto Foundation: Playing for Keeps Hub
By having play-centric program, Playing for Keeps is connecting communities with the excitement and athleticism of the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games.
Toronto Foundation: Vital People 2015
The Vital People grant supports Toronto’s community leaders with grants for professional development. Miranda Kamal was selected as a Vital People Award Winner in 2015 and is using the funding to broaden her knowledge of American Sign Language, Mental Health Challenges in youth and continuing her National Coaching Certification.