MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Outside the State Office Building in St. Paul, a group of young men were snapping group selfies and smiling broadly.
It was pure excitement as the Somali-Americans took a big step into American civics.
They are with the group Ka Joog, and they had come to the Capitol to seek state funding for a vital cause — keeping the tug of foreign terror groups out of reach.
“We’ve had success over the years in the Twin Cities, but really we’d like to take that across the state where a lot of [the] Somali community resides, like in St. Cloud, Rochester, Willmar and so forth,” Ka Joog’s executive director Mohamed Farah said.
Ka Joog is hoping to win $4.35 million in state funds to help support the group’s ongoing mentoring, job training and cultural activities. In addition, they will raise a total of $15 million over the next five years in private support.
The phrase “ka joog” means “stay away,” referring to the group’s core mission to offer positive diversions from evil influences like drugs and terror recruitment.
More than two dozen Twin Cities’ men have already been recruited by overseas terror organizations to wage war in the Middle East.
St. Cloud’s Hamse Abdule credits Ka Joog for laying his path into professional soccer.
“Without them I don’t think I would make it in terms of financially, in terms of encouraging me to play soccer,” Abdule said.
Besides seeking the state funding, Ka Joog is partnering with others non-profits such as the Minneapolis-based Wilderness Inquiry, which takes Somali-American girls on trips to national parks. They headed to Yellowstone National Park on a recent trip.
It is all part of a careful strategy to win the hearts and minds of vulnerable Somali youth with the helping hands of many who care.
“I never thought I’d make it, but now it’s just a dream come true,” Abdule said.
Ka Joog is now working to secure House and Senate sponsors to introduce their outreach bill to the full legislature.