First program of its kind for young Somalis born of a local partnership

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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — WellShare, a public health nonprofit headquartered in Minneapolis, came to Mankato in 2021.

After listening to community demands for equity and inclusion for the Somali population in Mankato, WellShare began creating a local program for young Somalis.

“There are a lot of different things the community would like to be able to do, but they just don’t feel welcome and comfortable doing it. And that’s really a big part of what we’re trying to do here,” said Evan Curtin, regional director of community health at WellShare.

At the time, the funds available to start a youth project were not forthcoming, until the Mayo Clinic Health System stepped in.

Mayo Clinic Health System Mankato has partnered with WellShare to set up a program for young Somalis for community and cultural integration in the region.

This is the first program of its kind in Mankato.

“This program created by WellShare is extremely innovative. He really seeks to safely and supportively integrate young Somalis into existing community activities, where they might not have felt as welcome,” explained Dr. Erin Westfall, assistant professor of family medicine at Mayo Clinic. Health System.

Through culturally specific programming, the Somali Youth Program focuses on community integration, youth empowerment, and academic and social support.

The program started in August 2022 and the services benefit Somali children aged 7-12.

“Having young Somalis experience community activities with Somali role models, as well as individual care, seems like the perfect formula for success,” Westfall said.

WellShare plans to expand its demographics to South Sudanese and Hispanic groups, and the program has begun adding more meetings on Fridays and Saturdays.

“Our goal here, all the time, was just to empower the community: to listen to them and put these programs in place to do that,” Curtin said.

To learn more about the WellShare program in southern Minnesota, visit WellShareInternational.org.

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