This week we are proud to feature Miranda Kamal co-founder of Mentoring Juniors Kids Organization (MJKO)!
Sometimes the path to greatness is paved with strife. 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 unrelated to her sport of choice. Unable to box again, Kamal decided to use everything she had learned to give back to the community. She joined forces with Ibrahim Kamal, a likeminded individual on multiple levels. An eight time National Boxing Champion, Ibrahim grew up in one of Toronto’s priority neighborhoods and knows firsthand how sport can change one’s life for the better. Together, they created the Toronto based charity, Mentoring Junior Kids Organization, built upon the core principals of Train, Prepare, and Believe!
MJKO helps young people from ages six to 18, from all walks of life. Their empowering mentoring and leadership programs educate youth on the benefits of physical activity and healthy food choices. 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.
“Our outreach helps youth gain confidence and self-esteem while teaching the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle. We believe that the earlier we reach the kids, the more successful and long-term results will be.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling inspired not only to give back to my community, but to dust off my boxing gloves! Let’s hear from Miranda below.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a gym teacher or a professional trainer for the NBA.
How did you get involved with the work you currently do?
I was an injured athlete (competitive boxer) who was really struggling. I was at war with my back injury and working with the kids really helped me to put things into perceptive. I had always used exercise to help deal with stress. When I was hurt, I couldn’t carry my own groceries, bend over to blow dry my hair or participate in any kind of exercise. It was the hardest time of my life.
What is your WHY?
7 days before my 16th birthday, I was the victim of a sexual assault. That was my first sexual experience. It really changed me. I felt unsafe for the first time in my life. I didn’t tell anyone what happened to me. Some 15 years later it was the sport of boxing that healed me. It allowed me to feel safe again. From that first day when I put on the gloves, I fell in love. When I started competing I felt at peace. Soon after my journey started I got injured and had emergency room spine surgery. I wanted a way to share my love of boxing, so my husband and I created Mentoring Juniors Kids Organization (MJKO)
What are the biggest challenges/set backs you’ve had to face?
I think the hardest thing about being a new charity is building a solid reputation. Funding is also challenging since grassroots charities (like us) are competing with national charities for funding. It makes it really hard when you and your husband have to hold every position from coach to cleaner. In the first 4 years we had zero cash flow. I sold my condo and worked for free for 3 years. It was a hard and tearful journey but worth every moment.
What are some of the successes (big or small) you’ve had?
I think seeing our youth grow has been our biggest success. We have had kids who hid under tables when they started at 12 to now graduating high school. This boy who has autism now works at Tim Hortons. We helped certify him in basic CPR/First aid, Level One Boxing Coaching Certification and FUNdamental Movement Skills training. He has become a wonderful young man. I think on a personal note getting my first pay cheque was a huge moment for me. It meant at least one year of being able to pay my own bills. Now, as we go into our sixth year getting a gym space with an actual boxing ring and bags was a emotional moment for my husband and I. We finally feel legit. As young leaders we still have so much to do. I have an amazing team of volunteers that remind me to slow down and celebrate the small victories. Without them MJKO could not exist.
If you could pick one charitable organization to ask our readers to donate to or volunteer with, which would it be?
Readers can donate to MJKO: Mentoring Juniors Kids Organization. MJKO is a charitable organization that promotes positive and healthy lifestyle choices through mentoring and leadership training. Our dream at MJKO is to create Community Champions by using the sport of non-contact boxing to get kids moving, thinking about healthy food choices, believing in impossible dreams and understanding the importance of volunteerism.
- All things are possible with training, preparation and belief (confidence).
2. We all have a duty to give back to the community.
3. All children and youth should have access to high quality fitness based programming.
4. Physical fitness is a cornerstone for a healthy, happy and balanced life.
5. Positive relationships among people are the foundation of life.
Facebook: MJKO Boxing