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Fabrice Vil was used to the grand view of downtown Montreal from his office window. He had grown accustomed to his desk, his double screen computers, and the personal souvenirs and art from his trips abroad that adorned the space.
But these days, the 29-year-old's office, which was once located on the 28th floor of law firm Langlois Kronström Desjardins, now sits on top of a Portuguese restaurant in the city's St. Michel area. He has two sets of everything — a garbage can, a chair and a desk — because he shares his space with another employee.
In 2013, after working as a corporate lawyer for about six years, Vil quit his high-paying job to pursue a passion project for which he'd already been volunteering — helping the city's underprivileged youth build life skills while dribbling a basketball.
"Funny thing was that I did have a mini basket and basketball and photos of the teams I used to coach [in my old office]... Not even my diplomas," he says.
Four years ago, Vil and a group of six friends co-founded Pour 3 Points (For 3 Points), a non-profit organization that was originally designed to mentor and offer tutoring services to youth who seemed disinterested at school. By partnering with local schools and getting kids involved in sports, Vil's goal was to also develop more athletes in low-income schools.
Vil, who never planned to turn this into a full-time career, says besides being a fan of basketball himself, it was a run-in with a childhood friend on the street that pushed him to get involved with a start-up in the first place. After many years without seeing this childhood pal, Vil could see he was not in a good place. Shortly after, he began to notice how many young kids in his community were either involved with criminal activity or had dropped out of school.
"The kid I knew was a friend of mine and he didn't succeed in life and was struggling," he says. "It got me thinking I always knew I wanted to give back to the community, even in the early days."
Vil grew up in a middle class family in Montreal. His parents, who came to Canada from Haiti in 1978, emphasized the importance of going to school. "To them, education was key to becoming a respected citizen contributing positively to society, even more because I was a son of immigrants," he says.
Acknowledging that he was a "lucky kid," he now spends hours working with donors for Pour 3 Points or hiring coaches for basketball teams. Today, the organization has moved away from a mentorship model and focuses instead on a two-year apprenticeship program, training young basketball coaches (often university students who get a stipend of $4,500 a year) to be life coaches for students.
Currently Vil's group has 12 coaches with about 12 players on each team at four schools in Montreal. He adds there are also two female coaches and three female teams that are part of the 12.
Transitioning from a stable job to a new role that seemed to have endless hours, however, definitely meant an adjustment. Volunteering with Pour 3 Points over the years and working with them before and after his office hours made him realize his true passion lay with the organization and kids.
"It was stressful. You're supposed to devote your time and effort towards your career and I initially tried to convince myself [working with] the organization would be a career development," he says. "But once I went through an identity crisis, I realized my job wasn't a priority."
After quitting, he changed his lifestyle. He moved out of his apartment and started sharing one with his brother. He cut back on going out on Friday and Saturday nights and seeing his friends, while keeping the rest of his expenses minimal.
Now, although there are both good and bad days as with any job, Vil (who acts as the co-founder and president of Pour 3 Points) says he tries to keep his schedule (and mind) stress-free by playing basketball, reading and playing with his niece.
As he works on the future of the organization — to have 150 coaches by 2019 and creating a model that can be used in other cities — Vil's also learned a lesson or two about the true meaning of success and satisfaction.
"Success in my view is understanding fundamentally who you are as an individual," he says. "If success means you're famous and getting money and you're not happy, there's a problem. Happiness is knowing who you are and acting in consistency with who you are."
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