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This article was published 17/7/2018 (1162 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Ken Opaleke arrived in Winnipeg in the early 1970s and lived and attended school in the West Broadway neighbourhood, where his experiences influenced and shaped his passion for recognizing the infinite potential in every child.
At a ceremony this month, Opaleke, executive director of the West Broadway Youth Outreach Inc. (WBYO), is being invested into the Order of Manitoba for 2018.
"I had a dream of creating a safe space for youth to thrive and also to bring awareness of Winnipeg’s inner city," he said.
That dream resulted in a youth outreach program that gives youth from all backgrounds opportunities to learn and grow in an atmosphere where their basic emotional, social and education needs are met and supported by positive role models.
West Broadway Youth Outreach is a drop-in recreational and life skills program for youth ages four and up in the West Broadway area and beyond.The Order of Manitoba, the province’s highest honour, was established in 1999 to recognize Manitobans who have enriched the social, cultural or economic well-being of the province.
Former Winnipegger Dr. Tito Daodu is entering her final year of training as a General Surgeon in Calgary, and considers herself a proud alumnus of WBYO.
"I cannot overstate how important my involvement with WBYO was in shaping who I am today. I benefited from the influence of so many active mentors who not only encouraged me to pursue my dreams but also supported me at each step of my journey," said Daodu. "Ken Opaleke, who is and has been the visionary and driving force behind the programming of the WBYO since the beginning, has been my lifelong mentor and exemplar of leadership. His energy and passion for the children of this neighbourhood is infectious. Over the years WBYO and its staff have served not only as fantastic role models but also as a source of stability. They have facilitated the success of thousands of children."
Opaleke is grateful to have the work of WBYO acknowledged with this honour.
"As I state to all our volunteers, whatever you give comes back to you 10 times more. These children you give your time and heart to, will go on to enrich your life, community and ultimately, your future in unimaginable ways. Supporting life skills programs such as WBYO — I believe that this in turn, has resulted in producing, and will continue to produce, some of Manitoba’s best and brightest citizens."
Opaleke’s commitment to the work he loves has gifted him with the ability to proudly claim 30 years of work without one sick day. How does he do it?
"Two cups of peppermint tea ‘every day’, and the most amazingly resilient community of families who have invited me in."
St. Boniface community correspondent
Janine LeGal is a community correspondent for St. Boniface.