With the launch of our new community initiative, the Somali American Youth Foundation (SAYF), hopes are high for our program to not only connect our young professionals, but to provide services to our youth, elders, as well as bridge the gap between parents and children. Our community is one of the most unique. However, it is not exclusive to Virginia, but across the states. As a people, we are good at pursuing community resources for ourselves and others, but it is just as important for us to come together and help each other grow, both in faith and in life.
The largest population of Somali refugees and immigrants can be found in the Twin Cities–Minneapolis, Minnesota. For those of us who have been to both Virginia and Minnesota, we can immediately see the similarities and differences among the two communities. Although there is a much larger population of Somalis in Minnesota (most figures putting the estimate around 80,000) compared to Virginia, the realities faced by many families are similar. Many youth struggle through high school, and many either drop out of college, or don’t go at all. This is especially true of the male youth, who in Minnesota, are more likely to be pressured into the wrong path, such as joining a gang. Virginia Somalis are more known for residing in America for a much longer period of time, and having a larger number of professionals, rather than business owners. Somalis in the Twin Cities are more business oriented, with thousands of small businesses spread out across the State.
Unfortunately, there is still much more room for improvement in the lives of the Somali people in the Twin Cities. The Cedar-Riverside area, for example, has one of the highest concentration of Somalis, with 8,000 living within one square mile of the neighborhood. Out of this population, majority of residents live below the poverty line, 12 percent of homes are single mother, 40 percent of the population are youth ages 5-24, and nearly one-fifth of residents have limited or no English proficiency. This community faces many challenges, especially between the elders and youth, in which the youth are pressured by peers to adopt the American culture, while their parents seek to preserve their culture. This is just one of the many examples that can be provided, in which programs such as SAYF can help bridge the gap between the two generations and provide resources for families and youth.
Our organization seeks to better engage our community, and has seen a large number of Somalis and Somali organizations willing to partner and help provide the resources needed: such as after school activities, counseling, tutoring, and others. Through our planned programs and events, we are committed to bettering the lives of our community members, and hope to establish a framework for programming, outreach, and networking to better connect with and engage all those who are willing to participate.