A Nelson-based national charity wants to help 500 genocide survivors in Rwanda this year, and it needs martial arts students across Canada to help them achieve that goal.
Nelson native Master Dean Siminoff is president of Martial Arts for Justice, which raises money each spring with a board breaking competition to fund projects such as teaching survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda how to overcome their trauma.
“One person here can help one survivor in Rwanda,” says Siminoff. “That’s the way we’re breaking it down. Martial arts schools across Canada participate in our Breaking Boards Breaking Chains fundraiser each year, and if each student raises enough money, one person here will help one person in Rwanda.”
Martial arts schools host public events in April and May that promote their sport, the schools and their efforts to support MAJ. It is a significant opportunity for school owners to teach their students to be champions of justice. The number of schools and students participating increases each year, and this year Siminoff has set a target of raising $75,000.
A new tool he has this year to explain what they’re accomplishing is two new videos on YouTube showing the results of enhanced resilience training. Go to the MAJ YouTube channel to see the people and training they’re receiving in Rwanda as well as the difference it is making. A television interview in Kigali with Siminoff last year led to the production company working with MAJ to produce the videos.
“I’ve been going to Rwanda for four years to train therapists and survivors in our enhanced resilience program that uses a unique combination of physical and mental exercises to help them through the trauma that they’ve been living with for more than 25 years,” he says.
“Each trip we grow our network of people there and broaden what we can accomplish. We’ve been working with AVEGA, an association of genocide widows that formed shortly after the genocide ended and has 20,000 members. Many of the therapists are survivors themselves, and our focus is on training instructors to multiply the number we can help. This year we decided we need to scale it up, and that’s how we set on the goal of training 500 survivors in 2020.”
MAJ has a team in Kigali who Siminoff has trained to deliver the enhanced resilience program alongside him.
“Our goal is that if our team can deliver the program to 20 people each week spread over 25 weeks we will hit our target of 500 widows re-empowered. It’s putting more control of their life into their hands. Protecting vulnerable people and empowering them is something that all martial artists should care about. That’s why we’re encouraging martial arts schools to get involved.”
To share his experience with Martial Arts for Justice, the enhanced resilience program and the work they are doing in Rwanda, Siminoff is planning a public information night in Nelson this spring after he returns from an upcoming trip to Rwanda. He is also available for public speaking engagements by request.
If you are a school owner or student, or to find a martial arts school you can support in the Breaking Boards Breaking Chains campaign, or to make a donation, visit martialartsforjustice.org. Siminoff also notes that although the BBBC campaign is focused on mobilizing martial arts schools across Canada, anyone who cares about fighting gender violence and trauma can donate or get involved.
Breaking Boards Breaking Chains has raised more than $280,000 since it started in 2013. The money has supported efforts to end modern-day slavery, rescue victims of human trafficking and help survivors of the Rwandan genocide overcome trauma and begin to rebuild their lives.
Martial Arts for Justice is an alliance of martial artists and school owners who choose to actively pursue justice, locally and globally. With head office in Nelson, it works with martial arts schools across Canada and internationally to help bring an end to violence and oppression.