Sensei Kim Marshall was part of a worthwhile exchange program this summer.
Marshall is the chief instructor of the Meibukan Gojyu Karate Winnipeg Dojo (2577 Portage Ave.), teaching Winnipeggers martial arts. But this summer, he also taught four pupils from Keyes, Calif.
Marshall and his friend and fellow karate instructor Edward Persike put together the exchange program. Persike, sensei at the Meibukan studio in Keyes, sent four students, aged 11, 12, 14, and 15, to Marshall’s dojo. The four students stayed with families that attend Marshall’s studio.
"I thought I would make a difference and I conned my dear friend Kim into doing it," Persike laughed.
In all seriousness, Persike and Marshall created the exchange program to provide a fun and meaningful experience for youth in Keyes.
Persike’s karate school is located in a poor community. Forty per cent of students don’t graduate from high school, and the unemployment rate is 50%.
"So I thought, what a great experience if these kids could participate in a foreign exchange student program. I talked to Kim Marshall and said, ‘This is what I want to do: I want to bring a few children to Canada, but I need for you to find them families to take them in and take care of them,’" Persike said.
Persike gathered the money necessary to send the four students to Winnipeg by fundraising and asking his clients for money. Not only was Persike able to pay for their plane tickets, but he also sent them to Winnipeg in uniform.
"They really came to Canada (looking like) a team," Marshall said.
The children spent a total of 10 days in Winnipeg, training at Marshall’s dojo for seven of those days and camping at St. Malo Provincial Park with the rest of the students.
When the children returned to Keyes, their parents and families noticed drastic changes in their personalities.
"Each of the parents said, ‘My child is different,’" Persike said. "They said they’re more intense. They can’t wait for school to start. They want to go to college."
One of the students even wanted to permanently move to Canada.
"The weather in mid-July is wonderful, so they wanted to immigrate. Guys, winter ends in June and probably starts in late September," Persike chuckled.
This is the first exchange to happen between the Winnipeg and Keyes studios, but the senseis have already started talking about next year’s exchange. One of the things they plan on changing is increasing the number of students travelling to Winnipeg for the program.
For more information about the Meibukan Gojyu Karate Winnipeg Dojo, visit gojuwinnipeg.com