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East African Youth Learn How to Swim, Be Active and Eat Well at YWCA

By Ahmed Yusuf, Girls and Youth East African Community Organizer, and Therese Genis, former Girls and Youth Coordinator
December 31, 2018
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YWCA Minneapolis’ Strong Fast Fit program was excited to welcome its first group of East African youth into the program this summer. Strong Fast Fit is part of our Girls and Youth department and teaches nutrition and physical activity to culturally specific groups. The goal is to encourage healthy lifestyles while reducing the risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes among Latino, Native, Hmong and East African families. The new East African group began with 13 youth in the summer and by the fall, it expanded to almost 30.

Launching with an Open House

Our East African Community Organizer, Ahmed Yusuf, has taken the lead with running the new groups. It has been a great success with a great deal of interest from the community. In April this year, we hosted an East African open house – it was a packed event and the energy was vibrant. Over 100 youth joined an interest list to be a part of program that evening.

YWCA Strong Fast Fit

Summer Activities and Learning to Swim

Over the summer, the group enjoyed some fun field trips out into the community and also participated in swim lessons. Some of our youth were beginners and a few were nervous to get into the water. But, the lifeguards persuaded them and showed them that it wasn’t very deep. Eventually, all the youth got in, and throughout the summer, they gained new skills and comfort in the water. This was a really great opportunity for the East African youth and it was fun to watch them learn to like swimming.

YWCA Strong Fast Fit

Promoting Healthy Nutrition through Cooking

In the fall, we expanded to two groups who enjoyed many things, including healthy nutrition activities and fitness education to bring a better understanding on how to gain overall wellbeing. They learned about healthy nutrition by cooking recipes using organic ingredients and no added sugar almost every week. The youth and their families also regularly visited the fitness facilities at YWCA Midtown to be more active as a family.

A Safe Place to Play

Ahmed’s favorite part of the program is getting to create a space for them to play and have fun! “It feels like something great we are doing here,” says Ahmed. One youth who joined the program didn’t know how to shoot a basketball and said he had never had a place to play before. The other youth in the group encouraged him and helped teach him how. This is the kind of thing that Ahmed loves to see and makes him feel really proud. Ahmed works to make the program “a place like home where the youth can learn, engage and make friends.”

YWCA Strong Fast Fit

Lessons on Family Meal Planning

Recently, we had our first family night with the program participants. They enjoyed a delicious, homemade, healthy meal and a lesson on meal planning by our health coach, Alea. Ahmed sat with a couple families and asked how they were liking the program. A parent told him that her son never used to eat avocado or many other healthy foods. But now he does because he knows the value and importance that those foods bring. She said she is very thankful for Strong Fast Fit!

We are all excited to see how this program continues to evolve and positively impact families in 2019.