First of its kind Somali youth program born from local partnership

The partnership built a Somali youth program for community and cultural integration in the area- a first of its kind in Mankato.
Mayo Clinic Health System Mankato partnered with WellShare to build a Somali youth program for community and cultural integration in the area.
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 5:16 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2022 at 6:39 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - WellShare, a public health nonprofit organization 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 Somali youth program.

“There’s a bunch of different things that the community would love to be able to do, but they just don’t feel welcome and comfortable to do it. And that’s really a huge 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 launch a youth project were not met, until the Mayo Clinic Health System stepped in.

Mayo Clinic Health System Mankato partnered with WellShare to build a Somali youth program for community and cultural integration in the area.

It’s the first program of its kind in Mankato.

“This program that WellShare has created is extremely innovative. It really seeks to safely and supportively integrate Somali youth into existing community activities, where they might not have felt as welcomed,” explained Dr. Erin Westfall, assistant professor of family medicine at the 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 ages 7-12.

“Having Somali youth experience community activities with Somali role models, along with that one-on-one care, seems like the perfect formula for success,” Westfall said.

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

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

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