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Catalysts for community: Hamilton’s emerging women leaders

By The Women’s Press | April 27, 2012

When Jetta Turkstra first moved to Canada from Senegal in 2001, she didn’t speak English. Her challenges with immigrating were as expected: cold weather and language barriers. Fortunately, she enrolled in English classes immediately and began her journey to integration.

“Yes, it was tough,” she says, “but there were more good things than bad.” She has since found a welcoming home in Dundas and has become an inspiration to many in her community. Knowing that the children in her home country often played soccer without equipment, she decided to take back her two daughters’ jerseys when she returned to Senegal at the close of the season. Maryama, now 8 and Jamila, 6, were delighted to share their belongings. The following year, a friend gave her forty jerseys to take back.

“When I took them there it was a very big hit. I gave them to a group of young boys, and they put numbers on the back and used them as uniforms,” she explains. “I don’t think I have felt happier than the moment I had 100 kids running after me as I was sitting down in the sand distributing the jerseys. It’s a feeling I can’t describe. It makes all the hard work worth it. All the hours you put in to doing this, the moment you see the kids and how happy they are – it’s all worth it.”

When Turkstra returned last year without any jerseys to share, the children were disappointed. She promised to return with more, which is when her appeal began. She sent out a letter to her daughter’s teams, other coaches, Sir William Osler Elementary School, and attendees at the end-of-season tournament.

“I had tons of people donate and wonderful parents volunteer. People donated uniforms, shin pads, cleats and soccer balls. Someone even brought a first aid kit.” She received a total of close to 1,600 both used and new uniforms as well as 100 soccer balls, 200 cleats, 50 shin pads, 200 pairs of soccer socks and four pairs of goalie gloves. On top of that community members along with the Dundas Soccer Community Associaton donated the funds needed to ship the equipment, which Turkstra will be taking with her in late February.

Apart from volunteering as a soccer coach, she also coordinates fundraisers for her children’s school and previously, their daycare. “I love being involved and making a difference. For me this is not work; it is something I enjoy.”

Her commitment and dedication to her community in Dundas and Senegal has inspired her children as well. For their birthday parties, instead of asking for presents, her daughter’s ask friends to bring French books or donations that can be given to schools in Senegal. In the future, she hopes to get more involved in programs for newcomers, and have her soccer project move beyond Senegal. “I would like every child in the world to have a soccer uniform and a ball to play with. Every child deserves to act like a child, and that is priceless.”

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From Dundas to Africa Soccer mom needs help to send hundreds of uniforms

By Carmela Fragomeni, The Hamilton Spectator | October 20, 2012

Jetta Turkstra’s shin and knee scars are her childhood soccer trophies, she tells her daughters.The Dundas mom and soccer enthusiast developed her love of the game in her native Senegal where kids often play barefoot and without equipment. But now, she can minimize her kind of “trophies” for a new generation with the hundreds of donated soccer uniforms and equipment she has collected for her next visit to Senegal.

The donations grew from a visit two years ago when Turkstra returned to her village near Dakar to visit her mom. Turkstra took two used soccer uniforms once belonging to her   young daughters Maryama, now 8 and Jamila, 6, and a box of uniform T-shirts, to donate to kids in the village.

The recipients were overjoyed. Word got around. And when Turkstra returned this past summer, children clamoured about, asking if she brought any more uniforms. She was without uniforms that time, but vowed to return soon with some. Once back home in Dundas, she put an appeal out through her daughters’ teams, her own fellow coaches, and the Dundas Youth Soccer Association end-of-season tournament.

She expected 100, but received close to 1,600, both used and new uniforms — plus 100 soccer balls, 200 cleats, 50 shin pads, 200 pairs of soccer socks and four pairs of goalie gloves.

“I was overwhelmed,” she said. “It turned out to be a great response. Everyone was happy to donate their old uniforms.”

So great was the response, she now has an unexpected and unanticipated problem – how to get the stuff to Senegal? Her preference is to take them there herself. As a native, she knows the country and can ensure they get there, get through customs without hitches, and most importantly aren’t stolen or confiscated to be sold rather than donated to kids who could really use them.

“The last thing I want is for them to be given to people who don’t need them, or for them to be sold.”

However, she will ship them if that’s the only way they’ll get there. One shipper quoted her a cost of $5.45 per kilogram for air transport.She doesn’t yet know how many kilograms she has, but is expecting costs to be a little hefty so she is appealing to the public to help cover the costs of sending them. She figures there are enough uniforms to equip the kids in four villages.

Turkstra is from Yoff, a village the size of Dundas with a population of 56,000 and one of many villages around Dakar, she said. She played soccer from age 7 to 16 and would play again now if not for a bad knee – although she did play against cousins in Senegal this summer. “I got my butt kicked of course,” she said with a laugh.

Turkstra, who came to Canada in 2000 after marrying Dundas native David Turkstra, coaches players from 18 months to 4-years-old and youth at Soccer World in Hamilton.

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