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While growing up in Kingston, Jamaica the YMCA played a big role in Jean’s life. “I grew up at the YMCA,” said Jean. “I learned to swim, enjoyed after school activities and summer camps there too.” In Jean’s first year of University he also volunteered teaching English, math and computer science to inner-city youth at the YMCA. 

After graduating from University Jean decided to move to Canada to pursue more opportunities. What began as hope and excitement quickly turned to hopelessness and pain. “I found myself culturally and socially isolated,” reported Jean. He became extremely homesick and depressed and without the support of family and friends, turned to alcohol and substance abuse. 

After years of abuse, Jean made the decision to reclaim his life. He enrolled himself in a treatment facility and as part of this recovery Jean was given a guest pass to the YMCA. “It had been years since I had been to the gym,” said Jean. As soon as he entered the facility he felt a sense of home. “It was such a pleasant atmosphere, I could feel the strong sense of community by just being in that positive space.” At the end of his workout Jean went to inquire about getting a full membership and was thrilled to find out that the YMCA offered subsidies for those who could not afford a membership. 

“I am extremely grateful for this opportunity as it provides a safe, relaxing environment where I feel at home. Not only does this membership provide a space for me to work on my physical health, but also my mental and emotional health. I have found my new community.”