Empowering Somali Youth: A Vibrant Summit Illuminates Urgent Topics

Abdirahman Mukhtar understands the power of a simple chat in finding solutions to complex problems. With two decades of experience as a youth worker in Minneapolis, he’s witnessed firsthand the challenges facing Somali youth.

In the mid-2000s, Mukhtar worked at Brian Coyle Community Center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. He played a crucial role, guiding the youth through sports and activities. Many looked up to him as a brother and mentor.

Now in his mid-40s, Mukhtar has watched some of the young people he mentored struggle with addiction, violence, and mental health. This complexity is a far cry from the hope they had when they first arrived in the U.S. seeking refuge.

Through Daryeel Youth, meaning ‘care’ in Somali, Mukhtar supports young East Africans. He fosters connections between generations by listening to youth’s concerns and engaging parents.

After noticing a rise in synthetic drug use, Mukhtar started street outreach to connect youth with help. Gun violence and gang issues also caught his attention, seeing former mentees fall into dangerous situations.

Many of these struggling individuals were part of the afterschool programs Mukhtar managed. Despite aging out or dropping out of school, he remained a consistent presence in their lives.

Every Friday at 8 p.m., Mukhtar hands out pizza and tea near the Cedar Cultural Center. He provides not just food but also a listening ear and a warm smile to those going through tough times.

The Somali Youth Summit, an annual event organized by Mukhtar, focuses on health and wellness for the community. Experts from various fields gather to address crucial youth issues.

Before the summit, Mukhtar held community conversations to address urgent matters. Parents learned about child development and behavior to bridge the gap between generations and cultures.

Mukhtar stresses the importance of parents being actively involved in their children’s lives. The summit offers resources from law enforcement, recovery groups, and more to support young Somalis.

His ultimate goal is to empower Somali youth and promote compassion for those battling addiction. Mukhtar advocates for family involvement in youth work, emphasizing culturally appropriate services and safe spaces for conversations to take place.

As the summit grows, Mukhtar hopes to engage more community members to address youth issues. In the meantime, he’ll continue his grassroots efforts, knowing that change begins with a simple conversation.

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