It's time to #BuckUp for Mental Health! Share this post and Desjardins Insurance will donate $1 in support of Covenant House VancouverPosted by Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Tuesday, May 19, 2015
VANCOUVER, BC – You’ve likely heard of Ali by now.
He’s the young man featured in Whitecaps FC’s #BuckUp for Mental Health presented by Desjardins Insurance video – a young man who dealt with depression and other mental health issues before finding peace at Covenant House Vancouver, a community partner of the club.
So when Covenant House reached out to Ali to ask him about potentially sharing his story in the campaign video, he didn’t have to think twice.
“I called them back right away and said, ‘When and where?’” Ali told whitecapsfc.com. “If people help you so much, you have to break a leg to help them back.”
Ali said he “cannot express the gratitude” for everything Covenant House has done for him. He first got involved in the program back in 2012 after moving to Vancouver from his native East Africa.
His family was in danger in East Africa – partly because of the politics in the region and partly because of “family misunderstandings.”
So he moved to Surrey to live with his aunt and other members of their family.
It wasn’t easy, though. He had trouble making friends at school, he went hungry at times, and “a lot of things happened at home.”
“And the only way I know how to run away from such things is to just look for a soccer pitch,” Ali said.
And he found one. He remembers the day, too.
It was a Tuesday afternoon, and there were some people playing soccer at a field close to the Gateway Skytrain Station. Turns out they were a part of the Surrey Street Soccer program.
“They asked if I wanted to play,” Ali recalled. “I said I don’t know if I’m really good at soccer but they gave me an opportunity. I never had soccer cleats. They said you can use your sneakers, don’t worry about it. I played, I played, and I played.”
From there, Ali got involved with Vancouver Street Soccer. And he’s never looked back.
“It’s been two and a half years with Vancouver Street Soccer … and I don’t want to be no place else,” said Ali, who is also a gameday employee with Whitecaps FC. “It’s kind of like a family for me.”
So is Covenant House.
When asked how the program has helped him, Ali responded: “That’s going to take a whole day to answer.”
On a surface level, Covenant House offers shelter to at-risk youth. But it’s really much more than that. As associate manager Marty Staniforth put it: “It’s a place of support for people who need it.”
“It’s not a place,” Ali said. “It’s a home. Every time I lose peace I just go back to there and sleep with a smile. I keep on saying this, people I never wanted to have around me just flipped into the people I can’t live my whole life without.”
Ali is currently back in Surrey with his aunt, siblings, and nephews. He has aspirations to go to college – he got straight A’s when living at the shelter – but for now he’s staying at home and acting as a father-figure for the children.
“I’ve been doing that ever since I was 12,” Ali said. “It’s not about money, it’s about being around. Exactly how I grew up is not what I want to see again. That’s why I’m still at home.”
Sometimes, Ali thinks about going back to Covenant House. He’s doing much better now, but he’s also not afraid to admit that he suffered from depression and sometimes still does.
“We all have,” Ali said. “It’s a human thing. Even the happiest person who’s the king or the queen, they get depressed. As long as you have a brain, you have suffered from depression. Then I look back, no matter how depressed I’ve been, stressed I’ve been, no matter how hard my life has been, once I get out on the soccer pitch … it’s gone. I can fight it. Trust me. I just look at the soccer ball and I see the word depression there, and I just the knock the hell out of it into the net.”
“Maybe that’s why everybody thinks I have a hard shot.”
This year, the funds raised through #BuckUp for Mental Health will be donated to Whitecaps FC community partner Covenant House Vancouver.
Participating is easy – there are many ways to show your support:
1. Donate online at whitecapsfc.com/buckup
2. Bring at least one dollar to the match on Saturday, May 30 when the ‘Caps take on Real Salt Lake. Help us raise one dollar per fan for a total of $21,000
3. Support via social media by sharing our video or re-tweeting – Desjardins Insurance will donate $1 for every re-tweet or share of the #BuckUp video (the tweet is below and there is a share button on the top right corner of the video at the top of this page)
4. Create an account online at whitecapsfc.com/buckup and ask your networks to donate – there are great prizes to be won for top fundraisers!
5. Text BuckUp to 39-39-39 to pledge $5 to #BuckUp in support of Covenant House Vancouver