Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/9/2009 (4677 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
THE president of a Winnipeg Somali organization is trying to get refugee boys and girls off the street and into the pool -- but separately, out of respect for their culture and Muslim faith.
"I want these kids to be happy," said Abdi Muuse, president of the Winnipeg Somali Confederation Union.
Muuse said he wants Somalis and other youths to have access to sports and arts at a recreational centre that respects their religious beliefs. He wants Winnipeg to have a place where men and women can swim and work out separately while observing religious rules concerning modesty and not showing too much skin around the opposite sex, he said.
There's a lack of recreational facilities in the inner city, and too many vulnerable kids are being lured into gangs, he said.
Newcomers just learning the language need a safe place where they can be kids and play, said the father of two young girls.
Youths need guidance that they aren't getting on the streets and in downtown malls, said Muuse.
He envisions "a place for kids where they learn 'Here you do the right thing -- you go to school. You play soccer and sports is very important. You don't want to be out on the streets and in gangs. We don't want to suffer like we suffered back home. We're in a civilized country now."
Not enough newcomers -- especially women -- are getting to benefit from being here, said Muuse.
Rather than adapting to new lives in Canada, too many women are nearly shut-ins, he said. "They stay at home all day -- 24-7." He said they have limited incomes, speak little English, and need some recreation for their physical and mental health.
Right now, the Somali confederation has a soccer team for boys aged 14 to 18. This afternoon, 16-year-old Mahamed Osman -- whose dad is the coach -- plays the last game of the season at Assiniboine Park.
Muuse said they have no girls' team, and no year-round place for kids to play that's culturally sensitive, keeping genders apart.
Muuse estimates Winnipeg has more than 1,000 Somalis and that number is growing. He said Toronto has 100,000 Somalis and two cultural centres with mosques and separate recreation facilities for boys and girls.
"It reduced crime and the youth came out to play," said Muuse.
He's looking for help to set up something similar in Winnipeg that everyone could use.
A spokesman for the city said they're open to ideas.
"The city would welcome the opportunity to meet with any representatives of the Muslim community or any other faith-based groups to discuss their needs and any requests they might have."
The Canadian Muslim Women's Institute said it is currently in the process of organizing a women's and girls' swimming program at Sherbrook Pool.
Muuse's goal is to one day have a facility that everyone can use with separate pools and exercise rooms for men and women.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.