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Gi drive in Canada grows from simple idea to 200 gis, cash donations and camaraderie

Filip Matos and some of the gi donations. Photo: Personal archive
Filip Matos and some of the gi donations. Photo: Personal archive

 

In Canada, a special charity project has been growing in numbers. What started as a small idea to bring gis back home to Brazil turned into a large pool of donators who have helped accomplish much more than anticipated.

Professor Filip Matos of Gracie Barra North Vancouver started the project without realizing it would become a project at all. Here is how almost 200 gis were gathered to be donated:

“It started when my boss surprised me with airfare for a flight to go home to Brazil to see my family (I hadn’t seen them for 3 years). I was touched by his generosity. I wish I can do something so generous one day.

I knew one guy in my town who teaches Jiu-Jitsu at his home for kids/teens/adults who cannot afford it. I had three old gis still in good condition that I wasn’t using, so I thought to bring them with me and give them to him for his students.

More gi donations. Photo: Personal archive
More gi donations. Photo: Personal archive

I thought to maybe text some of my friends and ask if they had any old gis to give as well. I have good friends. Kabir Bath, Jason Gagnon and Walter Buse–they all got on social media and asked all their friends and students to give gis, too. The BJJ community came through. I started going to the gyms to teach classes, take pictures and pick up gis. The first week I got over 20; I was so happy. The next week I got over 50! I was happy but worried. I didn’t know how I would get all the gis to Brazil. Me and my girlfriend were folding so many gis every night. I talked to a friend of mine and he told me: “Charity is not easy, but it’s worth it.”

Again I asked for help and the BJJ community supported me. People started to give donations for shipping, too. I’ve been to schools from Chilliwack to Squamish, and had donations from as far away as Vernon.

After just 3 weeks people have donated almost 200 gis and given over $1200 cash. Now I can send gis to Brazil and to the Philippines. This idea to take three gis has turned into being able to help students who can’t afford at many schools. This is important for me.

Even more important for me is seeing how well the BJJ community in British Columbia, Canada is growing. We can train together, compete together and support each other.

Kabir Bath of GMA Kaboom BJJ was one of the connections Filip had made to get the word out. His response to the outpouring of donations:

Donations at GMA Kaboom BJJ. Photo: Kabir Bath
Donations at GMA Kaboom BJJ. Photo: Kabir Bath

“When Professor Filip first messaged me telling me about his plan for the gi drive, I thought it was a great idea. Over the past two years, I’ve been working to really unite the BJJ community in BC. It’s been a great success, and it’s very satisfying to see our BJJ community unite to help support the community at large. I knew the community would pull through again if we could spread awareness, so the first thing I did was get a video out on social media letting everyone know about the cause. Raising awareness was one thing, but I wanted to really help Professor make this a success. I followed up with more videos giving academy owners tips on how to motivate their students to contribute to the cause. A lot of the participating academies adopted some of the ideas, and it was a great success. It was beautiful to see the BJJ community unite to raise over $1000 dollars for shipping costs, as well as over 200 kimonos. I am proud of how our community has grown closer in the last two years. I’m excited about all the great work we can do in the future together!”

You can still donate. If you’re in the BC area you can donate at your gym and Filip will find a way to pick them up. If not, you can always donate funds here: http://www.gofundme.com/ijtrlo

Also, you can stay in contact with Filip for how to spread the word to your own academy: filipmatosbjj@live.com

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All the professors involved. Photo: Personal archive
All the professors involved. Photo: Personal archive

 

 

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