By Libaan Osman and Chris Sanders
The Ryerson Rams women’s basketball team is working with Basket Plus to provide new infrastructure and resources in Kamengo, Uganda this upcoming May.
The campaign aims to raise $12,000 through monthly fundraisers, with the money going towards building a well to provide clean water at a previously unusable farm.
Ryerson will also host basketball clinics, renovate a local community centre and have group discussions for youth in the area.
“When you’re supporting something that’s bigger than yourself, that’s what we’re really striving for as a team,” said Rams head coach Carly Clarke. “For our team to collaborate on this together and do something that’s so meaningful outside of basketball, I think it will only make us a stronger team.”
In order to achieve the campaign’s goal of raising $12,000, the women’s basketball team will be holding different fundraisers each month leading up to May. Basket Plus has also created a contest called RAMS Madness Bracket, where people are tasked with predicting the winner of each game throughout Ryerson’s season.
Participants in the contest are required to pay a minimum $20 entry fee with a chance to win $250 for the person who finishes in first place.
Basket Plus is a non-profit organization dedicated to giving varsity sports teams a chance to help communities locally and world-wide, typically with the goal of educating youth through sports.
Rose-Anne Joly, Founder of Basket Plus and lead assistant coach for the Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s basketball team, started the non-profit organization in August 2017.
After volunteering in Togo with Leading Youth, Sports and Development in 2016, Joly was inspired to create her own non-profit organization.
“I had a very good experience while I was [in Togo, I] spent two weeks, travelled a little bit, met with everyone that was involved with the non-profit but when I came back home I [couldn’t] help but feel a bit selfish [about going] there and experiencing something for myself,” said Joly.
“I started thinking about starting my own non-profit that [can] benefit student-athletes in Canada but [also] make sure that they’re involved in projects that are beneficial for people in need.”
Since then, Joly has organized two projects which have featured her Ottawa team travel to Togo and Haiti helping build an outdoor basketball court and a sports complex.
Joly called the trip life-changing and noted that some of Ottawa’s players had never travelled outside of Canada before. “It was very good just to see the exchange, the group discussions and how different it is from living in Canada and how we take a lot of things for granted.”
Looking to expand the project outside of Ottawa, Joly reached out to Coach Clarke this past summer about taking part in the non-profit’s trip to Uganda.
“It was time for the non-profit to start going away from the University of Ottawa because we do [want] to serve Canadians, it’s not just at the University of Ottawa,” said Joly. “Carly is someone that inspires me a lot as a female coach. She’s been involved for a lot of years with the national team and her program has been successful.”
Ryerson and Basket Plus have chosen to fundraise for the Agnes Zabali Boys & Girls Club (AZBGC) in Kamengo. AZBGC caters to kids who don’t have the necessary tools to attend school and engage in recreational activities.
“It’s definitely going to bring us together because it’s a chance to give back outside of our community,” said Rams forward Bronwyn Williams. “But definitely bring a new perspective to our own lives as well.”
Expanding outside of Ottawa was the first step for Joly and Basket Plus, as she’s looking to potentially have schools in both Ontario and Quebec participate next year.
“The goal at some point is to have five projects a year, where we serve different provinces as well,” said Joly. “People have been very supportive of the non-profit and the idea behind it. I’m trying not to go too fast, we’re still a very small team, we’re not government funded on anything.”
For Joly, she’s grateful for how quickly Ryerson jumped on board with her third annual project.
“The smiles, the joy I [saw] after meeting with Ryerson’s women’s basketball team this past Wednesday…people that are excited to be a part of something bigger than who they are,” said Joly. “Knowing that they’re putting their energy towards something that is truly going to make a difference in someone’s life and a community.”
“I remember being 17-22 years old and not knowing what I want to do in life. At least maybe it gives them a spark of what they want to do later [in life].”
With files from Kintaro Skinner