Saskatchewan

Taken in by Kenya as young refugee, Regina boxer returns to country to help train coaches

Moses Moses lived in Kenya as a refugee after being displaced by war. Now, he says he wants to give back to the country that made him the man he is today.

'If they didn't take us in, who knows where we'd be today,' says New Line Boxing Club coach Moses Moses

Moses Moses is the coach at New Line Boxing Academy. He's started a boxing project he hopes will build connections between Canada and Kenya, where he lived as a refugee after fleeing from war in Sudan. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

When Moses Moses was just a child, civil war broke out in what is now South Sudan, where he was born. His family didn't know where they were going to go or what would come next. 

Eventually, they were taken in as refugees in neighbouring Kenya.

"If they didn't take us in, who knows where we'd be today," said Moses. 

While in Kenya, his family applied to immigrate to Canada. They came here 27 years ago, and Moses went on to make a career in boxing.

Now living in Regina, Moses returned to Kenya last month to share his boxing experience as a way to say thank you to the community that took him in.

Moses Moses, centre, lived in Kenya for a few years in his early teens before coming to Canada, where he is now a citizen. (Submitted by Moses Moses)
 

But the 41-year-old, who is one of the boxing instructors at Regina's New Line Boxing Club, wanted to learn what the community needed, instead of just bringing his own ideas. 

To do that, Moses went to Nairobi, Kenya, and met with the president of the Nairobi County Boxing Association, as well as a number of boxing clubs involved in the association. The biggest needs, he learned, were equipment and training facilities, along with developing coaching strategies and skills.

"So what I'm doing is I'm giving my knowledge of coaching to them — so that they can also be coaches that can produce high-calibre boxers," Moses said. 

Boxing program a chance to 'see the different world'

Moses is now back in Regina to plan and develop a two-week training camp he'll deliver in Nairobi next year. He hopes to also take some former boxers, colleagues and young boxers along with him for the next trip.

Moses Moses at age 20. He started boxing in 1997, and began competing in 1999. (Submitted by Moses Moses)

"We're taking documents — manuals on coaching, manuals on officiating, athlete-development manuals," he said, which the Kenyan boxers can then use to continue training.

"It's also a great opportunity for youth in Canada to have," he said, "to be able to go to Kenya, and experience life in Kenya … different cultures, different traditions, and see the different world."

Long-term, Moses hopes to develop a community boxing training facility in Nairobi, where youth in school can come and train. Being connected to the school would create an incentive for boxers to keep studying, Moses says.

While in Nairobi, Moses Moses met with Boxgirls, an organization started in 2006 to empower women through boxing. (New Line Boxing Academy/Facebook)

As well, in the future, he hopes to see a student exchange program through boxing, where students in Saskatchewan could train in Nairobi and vice versa.

Part of what's driving Moses to work for change in Nairobi is that he still sees a lot of the issues that existed when he lived there as a 13-year-old. 

Boxing can be life-changing: Moses

"Sanitation is not good, economic development is really, really behind, the poverty is very high and a lot of the kids — a lot of young people — are on the street trying to make a living, which is pretty much what I experienced," he said. 

Education is a key element to changing the situation, he said, and boxing can be a way for young people to make something of their life and learn life lessons through the sport. 

Moses Moses met with the president and chairman of the Nairobi County Boxing Association, Kennedy Otieno, to pitch the idea of the Saskatchewan-Nairobi connection. (New Line Boxing Academy/Facebook)
Moses Moses, second from right in the top row, visited Nairobi to see what the boxers there needed, and how he could help to give back to the country that took him in as a refugee. (New Line Boxing Academy/Facebook)

"Without boxing … I'm not really sure where I would be," he said.

"But given the lifestyle and experiences … that I went through, chances are if I did not get into boxing, I would either be dead or in jail or both."

He loves that boxing is an individual sport, he says, but that it takes a team to build a person into a boxer.

When you step into the ring, though, there are no excuses or finger-pointing, Moses says — everything is on your shoulders. 

"In that sense, it forces you … to grow up, to be an adult, and be accountable for your actions — because nobody is going to fight this for you," he said.

'Chances are if I did not get into boxing, I would either be dead or in jail or both,' says Moses Moses. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

"When I'm in the ring boxing, it seems like nothing bad exists in the world.… There's no wrong, there's no good, there's no right. I feel like I can do anything."

It's the same feeling he wants others to have, he said. 

"If I were to pass this knowledge on to somebody else, giving somebody hope, I'm giving somebody the opportunity to also achieve what I'm able to achieve," he said. 

It is, he says, "the best way I know how to say thank you to the country that has given me the opportunity to be the man that I am today."

Moses Moses plans to continue developing coaches in Saskatchewan and Nairobi. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

About the Author

Heidi Atter

AP/Journalist

Heidi Atter is a journalist working in Regina. She started with CBC Saskatchewan after a successful internship and has a passion for character-driven stories. Heidi has worked as a reporter, web writer, associate producer and show director so far, and has worked in Edmonton, at the Wainwright military base, and in Adazi, Latvia. Story ideas? Email heidi.atter@cbc.ca.

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