Canadian SportWORKS Officer Making a Difference at Home for Newcomers

From Trinidad and Tobago to Calgary, Tyler Powell is using the power of sport for community development.

Tyler Powell has always felt a profound connection to sports, particularly to the icy allure of curling - a sport in which players slide heavy, polished granite (also called rocks) across the ice sheet towards a circular target marked on the ice. More than a pastime, it is a passion. So, when the opportunity arose for him to participate in Commonwealth Sport Canada’s (CSC) SportWORKS program, he didn't hesitate.

Tyler’s journey began as a Canadian SportWORKS Officer in the Queen Elizabeth Scholars Program (QES), a partnership between Mount Royal University (MRU) and CSC. This initiative is made possible through the Rideau Hall Foundation, in collaboration with Community Foundations of Canada, Universities Canada, and Canadian universities.  For this particular project, students complete international experiential learning opportunities in Commonwealth countries working with local partners on sport for development and peace (SDP) and sport development projects. Since 2015, more than fifty Canadian students have participated in the SportWORKS QES program in the Caribbean and Africa, while developing as global citizens through community engagement and learning. Over the next four years, there will be sixteen additional placements made possible by new QES funding. It was this partnership that led Tyler to Trinidad and Tobago for the Commonwealth Youth Games in the summer of 2024.

In the Caribbean, Tyler's love for sports synchronized with his desire to make a difference. Assisting in the planning and execution of the Commonwealth Youth Games sparked something within him, putting on full display the truly transformative power of sports, especially for youth. It wasn't just about competition. It was about camaraderie, growth and inclusion.

Upon returning to Calgary, Tyler knew he couldn't let his experience abroad be simply a memory. He wanted to continue making an impact through sports, especially for newcomer youth in Canada.

Ryan Pelley, SportWORKS Program Manager at Commonwealth Sport Canada, facilitated an introduction to Neelam Madan, Manager at the Centre for Newcomers (CFN) in Calgary – an introduction which proved pivotal in the launch of the initiative. With the support of MRU, CSC and CFN, Tyler organized a try-it event in the sport he loves, curling. Through collaboration, Tyler's initiative gained traction. Neelam’s support of the program, in addition to promoting the event among their members, was a testament to the power of partnerships in fostering community engagement and spreading the word about amazing opportunities.

The Try-It Curling Event wasn't just about introducing a new sport. It was about creating connections and opportunities. Over five weeks, 24 participants took part in the Rock the House program. What started as tentative steps on the ice grew into a shared passion for curling, with several newcomer participants joining local junior curling clubs when the program finished.

Through the initiative, Tyler witnessed firsthand the impact on the youth. Not only did they learn the basics of curling, but they also formed friendships that transcended cultural barriers. Meanwhile, parents cheered from the sidelines, forging bonds of their own. Reflecting on his journey, Tyler gained an expanded understanding of the significance of his SportWORKS placement. More than a resume booster, it was a catalyst for change. His experience in Trinidad and Tobago opened his eyes to the universal language of sport and the potential it held for building strong, resilient, and connected communities.

Reflecting on his SportWORKS experience, Tyler realized that it wasn't just about the games or the events. It was about the connections created and the lives touched along the way. His journey from Trinidad and Tobago to Calgary is a testament to the power of sports as a universal language, capable of bridging divides and fostering unity.

Through his continued efforts in Canada that made a difference, Tyler exemplified the essence of SportWORKS, inspiring others to recognize the potential of sports as a tool for social change. It is about the endless effects of our collective actions on others and our communities. As a SportWORKS alum, Tyler remains committed to being a builder for sport and community, weaving threads of inclusivity and empowerment. Tyler’s efforts have left an indelible mark on the lives of newcomer youth, proving that sport truly has the power to change the world, in this case, one curling stone at a time.