IN PICTURES: Immigrant kids jump into Minnesota's outdoor summer culture

A Minnesota summer camp is helping connect city kids and children of refugees to the state's outdoor summer culture, often for the first time.
Khalid Musse (left) and Abubakar Sherif (center) grab Bukhari Booker during a game of capture the flag at Sibley State Park on Friday, June 14, 2019. More than 75 kids and their family members spent five days at this year's Youth and Family Circle summer camp. Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

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Boating, swimming, hiking and singing songs around a campfire are summer traditions for many Minnesotans. But if you didn’t grow up with the lake life, how do you learn it?


Over the last eight years, the Youth and Family Circle has been dedicated to connecting city kids and children of refugees to those experiences, often for the first time. Each summer the group hosts camp at a state park for several days, helping kids and their families learn to enjoy the outdoors.


“We don’t want this to be a strange thing for them anymore,” said Mahmud Kanyare, who co-founded the nonprofit with Mahdi Osman. “We want to make sure that the resources that are provided for every other community are also provided for the immigrants.”


Language, lack of information and finances are often barriers to kids enjoying Minnesota’s lake life. And outdoor recreation can fall outside the norm for immigrant parents, which is why they’re invited along to experience camp along with the kids.


Summer camp is also a way to change perceptions about who enjoys outdoor recreation, said Osman.


“People of different cultures than me,” Osman said, “they’re surprised to hear that East Africans or Muslims they go camping and just have fun like anyone else.”

From left, Hafsa Musse, 15, and Bayaan Booker, 18, play music over the megaphone during a bus ride Friday, June 14, 2019, in New London, Minn. Hafsa said she had never swum in a lake before attending camp for the first time four years ago. Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News
Campers hike on one of the trails toward the horse camp at Sibley State Park on Sunday, June 16, 2019. They also hiked to Mount Tom, which is the highest point for 50 miles, to visit the observation tower. Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News
Hanan Samatar hikes on a trail at Sibley State Park on Sunday, June 16, 2019. Youth and Family Circle co-founders Mahmud Kanyare and Mahdi Osman said they started the non-profit after attending camp as kids and falling in love with outdoor recreation. Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News
Salma Mohamed (right) jokes with her sister, Habso, during free time at camp Friday, June 14, 2019. Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News
Hanan Samatar (center) mimics a bird during a game of charades in the dining hall before dinner Friday, June 14, 2019. Youth and their family members from the 7-county Twin Cities metro area, St. Cloud, Minn. and Wisconsin attended the camp. Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News
From left, Bilqisa Booker, Sahra Gesaade, Bayaan Booker, Hafsa Musse, Sundus Yusuf and Sucad Yusuf talk about music as they relax in their cabin Sunday, June 16, 2019. Hafsa says that classmates are often surprised to find out she goes to camp during the summer. "They were even impressed by that I slept in a cabin and I've been on a boat and I've done things similar to them. They didn't think somebody like me would actually like do those extracurricular activities," she said. Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News
Abdirahmen Adam, 13, floats in Lake Andrew on Friday, June 14, 2019. Abdirahmen says swimming is one of his favorite camp activities. Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News
From left, Hafsa Musse, Mahdi Osman, Sucad Yusuf, and Samira Ahmed go water tubing Sunday, June 16, 2019. Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News
From left, Luqman Yusuf and Abdirahmen Adam laugh Friday, June 14, 2019, as they encourage Sgt. Michael Tombaga of the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office to drive the boat faster. Abdirahmen says camp has helped him become a better person by allowing him to try new experiences that have challenged him. Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News
Abdinasir Mohamed goes down a water slide Saturday, June 15, 2019. Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News
Hamza Yusuf points to a caterpillar to Asiya Mahdi as they explore the Sibley State Park campgrounds Saturday, June 15, 2019. Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News
Campers sit around the fire to sing, tell jokes and ghost stories, perform skits and sing inspirational songs Saturday, June 15, 2019. The group gathered at the end of each day as a way to bond and build community. Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

Christine T. Nguyen is a Vietnamese American who works as a senior photojournalist at MPR News. Previously, she spent nearly 15 years covering daily life, sports and politics as a visual journalist at newspapers in North Carolina.

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