UAU Community Outreach Programs

Mission and Objectives

Youth are an important part of the refugee population in Utah. Young people in our communities face daunting challenges as they develop new identities and struggle to integrate into their host society. The disconnection of refugee youth from family and community values in favor of the stereotypical hip-hop culture in which they immerse themselves creates a wedge between them, their parents and schools. Ultimately, many of them become vulnerable to gang recruitment, substance abuse and school dropout.

Our community must counter this trend by putting in place robust youth development programs that intentionally and strategically seek to facilitate the successful transition of young people into productive adulthood. These programs seek to provide opportunities that promote social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive development for youth.

In “Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies,” Jay J. Coakley, Ph.D, Professor Emeritus, Sociology, Univ. of Colorado at Colorado Springs, describes sport as a fundamentally “positive and pure activity” that has a “fertilizer effect” for youth resulting in improved motor skills, health, discipline, character, and leadership. He contends that sports serves as a catalyst for future growth through lessons promoting life structure, personal values, defining goals, respect for authority and rules, as well as growth into adult-life through positive adult role models.

As Coakley points out, “The physical capital acquired from sports sparks future acquisition of social and cultural capital, motivates continued efforts for achievement, facilitates social networking, and fosters aspirations that transcend sports.” We focus on soccer and karate in an effort to foster these in our participating youth.

The UAU has implemented a series of three community outreach programs to address some of the critical needs of our community: Karate, Soccer and Computer Literacy. Through these three programs we strive to foster harmonious relationships, a sense of belonging, educational achievement and generally seek to facilitate the successful transition of young people into productive adulthood.

African Festival

The African Festival LogoThe African Festival is a cultural celebration of our African heritage and is produced by United Africans of Utah. The festival an open showcase of African cultures, dance, and art. It is free to the general public. The festival features music and cultural performances along with food for people to enjoy as well as crafts to buy. Visit the African Festival for more information.

Computer Literacy Program

Computers have become essential tools in schools, homes and workplaces. Unfortunately, lack of access to computers at an early age, the limitation of resources and unforgiving work hours have meant that most refugees now lack basic computer skills. We have come to realize that even some of our college-educated refugee community leaders lack essential computer skills. UAU is actively addressing this issue by offering targeted computer literacy training to our refugee community members and leaders. We have acquired laptop computers and projection equipment to support this training.

Although the computer skills initiative has clearly had an impact in some refugee communities whose leaders participated in our training, there are still a considerable number of leaders and emerging leaders who still need basic computer skills. Along with opening up better employment opportunities for them, this initiative will also help them become better leaders in their respective communities. Computer literacy builds upon the objectives we have for soccer and karate by providing opportunities for self-sufficiency and gainful employment.

The computer literacy program will offer a four-class course specially designed to help refugees who have limited to no computer literacy skills. There will be four key points of emphasis:

  1. Software, Hardware and the Internet
  2. Word – Writing letters, reports, and more
  3. Excel – Creating a budget
  4. PowerPoint – Creating and giving presentations

The computer literacy training will target primarily refugees who need basic computer skills. Community leaders who are in this category will have priority, but the program will be open to others. Everybody who is a refugee and who wants to develop basic computer skills will be considered for training based on space availability.

UAU partners with the Utah Refugee Services Office (URSO) and Horizonte Instruction and Training Center (HITC) for training. We will also partner with other community-based organizations.

Contact Maxwell Ayeliya at maxwell@theuau.org for more information.

School and Family Outreach

United Africans of Utah is nonprofit serving refugees and immigrants in Utah. UAU provides outreach services addressing refugee community leaders’ concerns with refugee youth through educational outreach to refugee families and schools in Salt Lake County to better equip parents and educators with knowledge and strategies to help refugee youth succeed. This outreach program is funded by the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

Contact: Shauna Doumbia, School and Family Outreach Program Coordinator by email Shauna.Doumbia@theuau.org or phone 801-520-4431 for more information.

Youth Karate Program

United Africans of Utah sees the practice of karate as a means toward healthy youth development. Sports in general, and karate in particular, can be powerful programmatic tools in achieving these goals.

Young woman in karate pose.The UAU karate program is based on a time-tested, intentional youth development structure with a proven success record. Our program emphasizes discipline, respect and behavioral enhancement. In addition to the acquisition of technical skills in karate, students have shown substantial growth in academic performance, citizenship and growth in their relationships with peers, parents, and school teachers.

The UAU karate program emphasizes discipline, respect and behavioral enhancement in line with American psychologist, Judith Berry’s (1991) research findings, which determined the positive effects of karate on four dependent variables including:

  1. student behavior as related to classroom discipline,
  2. teacher attitudes toward at-risk students,
  3. students’ self-concepts, and
  4. academic achievement.

Over the past few years, our program outcomes have consistently mirrored these findings.

Our Stripes and Belt ranking systems offer incentives and visible recognition for accomplishment at every level. A yellow stripe rewards academic performance, whereas a blue stripe is given to a student who demonstrates citizenship at home, school, or in the community. A red stripe is awarded for sustained effort and a black stripe for technical skills development. Our karate program will continue to support youth development in the refugee communities through our stripe system and by providing consistent training, clear expectations and modeling of positive behaviors.

Our goal is to have 20 young people enrolled in our program. Depending on space availability, the program will remain open to parents and guardians who have children enrolled so that parents and their children may participate together. Our objective is to provide both refugee youth and parents a space to train together and bond. Data from past program experiences show that when parents train with their children, the family tends to have improved relationships and better skill growth in karate.

The UAU Karate program will continue to work with refugee youth regardless of race, nationality, gender, or religious background.

The UAU Karate program is a partnership between the UAU and the Utah Refugee Education and Training Office (RETO), Horizonte Instruction and Training Center (HITC) along with three recreation centers in Salt Lake City, Rose Park and West Valley City.

Contact Dr. Amadou Niang at niangam925@gmail.com for more information.

Youth Soccer Program

The UAU Soccer Program supports refugee youth and young adults by combining soccer with education and employment-related workshops. Soccer is one great way to bring many of the at-risk refugee youth together and engage them in positive activities during after-school hours and on weekends when they are most vulnerable. It creates harmony and a sense of belonging in the community.

Soccer teamUAU plans to use this unique platform to get the refugee youth together in order to engage them in communal and healthy physical activities as well as informational workshops around postsecondary education and public health. By keeping refugee youth and young adults busy and well informed, this platform may shield them from gang recruitment, illegal activities and unhealthy behaviors.

UAU is partnering with the Utah Refugee Education and Training Center (RETC), Utah Refugee Sports, Utah Referees, Utah Justice League Association, Salt Lake City Parks and Recreation, Refugee Justice League, and other refugee community-based organizations to make the USU Soccer Program a reality.

Contact: Newton Gborway at newton@theuau.org for more information.