Youth soccer program helps East African students build community

Life as an adolescent can be challenging, but for immigrant and refugee children, language and cultural barriers can make the challenges of youth even harder. The founders of the Somali Youth Soccer Association wanted to find a way to help kids overcome those challenges.

Their East African Homework Help and Soccer Program does just that. The free program organizes community volunteers to provide afterschool homework assistance for East African students on weekdays and brings kids together to learn and practice soccer drills on the weekends.

A male soccer coach carries a round cooler of water around to kids in soccer jerseys who are part of the Somali Youth Soccer Association
A coach brings water to Somali Youth Soccer Association players. Photo taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic

Co-founder of the program and father of three, Ahmed Kasim, says he wanted to build a program that would give East African children a healthy outlet for stress and a place to connect with community. He also noted the importance of academic support as English is a second language for many East African students and may not even be spoken in their households. Part of the afterschool program also includes networking opportunities for limited English-speaking parents to support each other and share resources.

In Somalia, and many East African countries, soccer is an important part of the culture and community. Ahmed, who leads the weekend soccer lessons, hopes the program can connect children to their home country and provide possible paths to future scholarship opportunities. Post-pandemic, Ahmed says he would like to take this structure to other cities to help build similar programs for East African students across the nation.

Female participants in the Somali Youth Soccer Association stand with arms around each other in front of a soccer goal.
Participants in the Somali Youth Soccer Association. Photo taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program began in January, and the leaders look forward to continuing to serve students throughout the school year and beyond.

This program is supported by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods’ Neighborhood Matching Fund. The application period is currently open for the next round of program funding. The application deadline is April 5.