Creating opportunity through sports

Posted on Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Wendy Liang (centre) with volunteers and two CSO graduates at the National Homeless Soccer Championships in Hamilton, Ont. July 18-19

By Brandon Gillet

After city-wide news coverage and a successful pilot run, Telfer School of Management student Wendy Liang is gearing up for round two of the Canada Sports Officials (CSO) program, which offers soccer referee certification as well as skills development workshops to homeless citizens in the city.

“We teach them the essential skills to be in a work place, not just a referee on a soccer field,” says Liang. “Also, we teach them how to budget, manage their credit and finances so they can save for their future.”

The project recently led Liang and two newly certified referees to the National Homeless Soccer Championships in Hamilton Ontario July 18 and 19. The two referees served as officials for the tournament, which acts as a qualifier for the Homeless World Cup 2015 taking place in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, September 12 to 19.

“They did really well and were on top of their game,” said Liang. “We’re very proud.”

Next up for Liang and the program is the CSO Corporate Cup — Ottawa East August 22 at François Dupont Park in Orleans and the CSO Corporate Cup — Ottawa West August 29 in Kanata. The tournament is designed to make OSO more sustainable, according to Liang.

The program, offered through Ottawa Street Soccer, which uses sport to support the homeless, runs in two phases, a weekend of soccer referee training, and a weekend focusing on financial planning and employability skills. The referee training clinic is offered through a partnership with the Ontario Soccer Association and the Eastern Ontario District Soccer Association.

“We have volunteer instructors who give their time for free,” says Liang, “which allows us to offer the program for free to the participants.”

Liang will soon start another clinic, using the feedback from the first round to tailor the program to each participant’s individual needs. She is now heading CSO on her own, as co-founder Tanveer Mostafa has moved on to another project. Though Liang is happy with how the pilot went, citing the fact that all participants are now working, the program continues to look for ways to improve.

“We had six participants, who all passed the course. We received good feedback. They enjoyed it and they learned,” says Liang.

Ottawa Street Soccer originally approached Liang and Mostafa, who came up with the idea for the program. It has been supported by community entrepreneurship group Enactus uOttawa, which counts both Liang and Mostafa as members.

“In the future we want to add basketball and volleyball, to create a diverse set of sports in the program,” says Liang. “Soccer is just the starting point.”

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