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Hoop dreams: AYCO building community through basketball



PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -Keeping youth engaged is difficult enough at times but the challenge is even tougher for a kid and their family who are adjusting to life in a new country.

Each week on Friday night a group of kids get together at the Montavilla Community Center to play some basketball.

“Sometimes it’s the best part of the week, coming out here on a Friday night and play basketball,” said Mohamed Ahmed.

“Friday nights tend to be those where if kids don’t have something to do, they find something to do and it may not always be positive, so we wanted to occupy them with this and supply them the space,” said Omar Mohamed.

The space is provided to the African Youth and Community Organization by Portland Parks and Recreation.

“It’s awesome really because Friday nights I am usually at my grandmas doing nothing really, so having a chance to be on a team with my friends, playing, breaking ankles,” said Abukar Munye.

Building a tighter woven community through hoops, it’s what AYCO strives to do for immigrant refugee families with roots in Somalia and East Africa.

“Eventually we want to grow it out more but right now for them to have that opportunity, to have a place where they can all join and get together is really important,” Mohamed Abdulkadir said.

“It brings a sense of community to people around me,” said Mohamed Ahmed. “We have our differences but we come together to compete. We are all one.”
About 50 kids, ranging in ages from 11 to 15 have suited up for the first year, four-team league that runs from October to March. At least another 40 kids are on the waiting list.

“It starts with the basketball to pull them in but then we also have other programs now,” said Omar Mohamed. “We are going to be starting the Leadership Youth Program and that is more about academics and career searching and really just developing leadership styles.”

Under the leadership of Madison alum Omar Mohamed and Wilson graduate’s Mohamed Abdulkadir and Ali Mursal, it’s about paying it forward to the future in the present.

“At some point I was in the same position for these kids. Basketball was an outlet for me and these kids,” said Mohamed Abdulkadir. “I felt when I had that opportunity when I was a kid, it kept me from things that I shouldn’t be doing.”

“They actually look forward to every Friday. They say ‘coach, when can we come, when can we play?’ They ask everyday,” said Ali Mursal. “These guys love the NBA so when we do something like this, they feel like they are in the NBA.”

Loving the game and loving thy neighbor.

“With the whole Islamophobia thing, they do experience some type of bullying or harassment, and we just want to encourage them that you can be proud of your Islamic identity and contribute to society just like anyone else,” Omar Mohamed said.

“We’re Muslims and what that means is all Muslims are brother,” Mohamed Nur said.

Anyone who would like to volunteer with AYCO can find more information at the following links:


Somali teenager sets her hopes high for the future



AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – War shattered 14-year-old Manaal’s dreams for the future. Now safe in the Netherlands, with new friends, her spirits are soaring once more.

“I have only been in an airplane once and that is when we arrived here from Somalia,” says Manaal, who fled the country with her family. “In the airplane, I felt butterflies in my stomach the whole time. I saw a movie about a stewardess and she looked so pretty and smart that I decided I want to become a stewardess as well.”

Twenty-eight long years of conflict have left Somalia reeling. The peaceful canals and cafes of Amsterdam, where Manaal found safety in 2014 , have offered the youngster a refuge she could barely have imagined.

Manaal is one of 12 refugee and asylum-seeking children living in Europe who star in a new project that lets their imagination run free.

Titled The Dream Diaries, the project sees the young refugees and asylum-seekers reveal their hopes and dreams from the safety of their new homes in Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
“In the airplane, I felt butterflies in my stomach
the whole time.”

The series was produced by Humans of Amsterdam photographer Debra Barraud, her colleague Benjamin Heertje, Dutch graphic designer Annegien Schilling, filmmaker Kris Pouw and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

In it, Manaal dreams of becoming an air stewardess. A portrait shows her sitting on the wing of an airplane, soaring through a picturesque evening sky.

After 5 long years of separation from her father, who was the first to flee to Europe in a desperate bid to find a better life for his family, air travel means more to Manaal than most.

“When we arrived at the airport, I finally saw my dad again,” she tells The Dream Diaries team. “So I ran up to him and hugged him really tight.”
“When children flee their home countries, they leave everything behind, except their hopes and dreams,” says co-creator Debra Barraud, whose Humans of Amsterdam photography project has over 400,000 Facebook followers. “Through the project we saw the strength of these children and how with the right support they can achieve anything.”

Audiences are being encouraged to stand #WithRefugees by signing UNHCR’s global petition, which asks decision makers to grant refugees safety, education and opportunities – turning their dreams into reality. You can follow The Dream Diaries series via Humans of Amsterdam, Fetching Tigerss and UNHCR’s social accounts.

“My dream is to be a flight attendant,” says Manaal, who will never forget the elation of her first flight – to safety. “I want to be able to travel, see Paris and have butterflies in my stomach. I want to see the entire world.”

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Maine’s 1st Somali police officer busted at Mass. concert



LA TIMES — Maine’s first Somali police officer is on paid leave during an investigation after her arrest over the weekend in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Worcester police charged Zahra Munye Abu, of Portland, with several misdemeanors including assault and battery, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Police say the 26-year-old caused a disturbance at a Ja Rule and Ashanti concert at the Palladium Nightclub. She was arrested Saturday night, and posted bail early Sunday.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck confirmed Abu’s arrest, but declined further comment.

Abu was born in a Kenyan refugee camp before coming to Maine. She graduated from the University of Southern Maine and became a police officer in 2016. The Associated Press could not locate a phone number for her, and it’s unclear if she has a lawyer.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Portland police officer whose hiring made history is put on leave after arrest in Massachusetts



PRESS HERALD — Zahra Munye Abu, the first Somali immigrant to serve on the city’s force, is charged in Worcester with five misdemeanors, including assault.

A 24-year-old Portland police officer has been charged with five misdemeanors, including assault and battery, after being arrested Saturday night at a concert venue in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Worcester police said Zahra Munye Abu, of Portland, is also facing charges of trespassing, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.

Abu caused a disturbance while attending a Ja Rule and Ashanti concert at the Palladium Nightclub on Main Street, said Worcester police Sgt. Kerry F. Hazelhurst.

“The nightclub was hosting several live musical acts,” Hazelhurst said in an email. “She was (given) several opportunities to leave and refused. Eventually she was placed under arrest.”

Worcester police would not provide more details about the incident, and members of Abu’s family declined to comment when contacted by phone at their home.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said Abu has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending a review of the matter.

“The Portland Police Department was notified late Saturday night of the arrest of Police Officer Zahra Abu in Worcester, Massachusetts,” Sauschuck said in an email. “This issue will be dealt with as a personnel matter from this point forward, so I will have no further comment.”

Chris Besaw, the Palladium general manager, declined to comment about the arrest or what occurred before local police became involved.

Abu was bailed out of jail at 1 a.m. Sunday, Hazelhurst said. He did not know the bail amount. She is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in Worcester District Court.

Abu is a high-profile member of the Portland police force because she is the first member of Maine’s Somali immigrant community to become a police officer in Maine.

She was born to Somali parents in a Kenyan refugee camp and has lived in Portland since she was 2 years old. She graduated from Deering High School in Portland and studied criminal justice and women-and-gender issues at the University of Southern Maine.

If convicted, Abu faces a maximum penalty of up to 2½ years in a county jail on the assault and battery and the resisting arrest charges. Each of the other charges include less severe maximum penalties.

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