Organization Helps Immigrant and Refugee Children Learn to Create Coping Skills

Ukasha Dakane is exectutive director of Fortune Relief and Youth Empowerment Organization.

Connecting with Kids is a program of the Edina Community Foundation. Its mission is to connect individuals, families, organizations and other resources in Edina to help raise healthy children and develop a healthy community. As part of that mission Connecting with Kids honors leaders in the community who are actively involved in working with young people at a Leadership Breakfast each March. One of the honorees from the 2018 Leadership Breakfast is Ukasha Dakane.

Dakane is the executive director of the Fortune Relief and Youth Empowerment Organization, or Frayeo. He works with immigrant and refugee children, young adults and their families in a variety of ways. He was honored at the Leadership Breakfast for his program Let it Go which offers anger management, conflict resolution and leadership skills training to young men in schools across the Twin Cities.

Let it Go is a four-week program designed for young men between the ages of 12 and 24. Week one of the program focuses on anger management, the second and third weeks turn to conflict resolution, and the fourth week builds on those topics to help young men develop leadership skills.

Dakane developed the program by drawing on personal experience. “This training is unique and based on my own life story,” he says. “I want to help young men deal with all these issues. I had to learn these lessons the hard way.”

Immigrant and refugee children struggle with many of the same issues all other children face … bullying, anxiety about school achievement, peer pressure. Dakane knows that for the parents of children in immigrant and refugee families it can be hard to find the time to sit down and talk about school work or social problems.

“Some of these parents are struggling just to keep food on the table,” he says. “And for some of the kids, the parents seem too far removed from their problems … not really connected to the American way of life that the kids are trying to navigate.”

That’s why Frayeo offers the Let it Go program. “They need the support and the tools to succeed and to become leaders in their community,” he says. “I want to help them realize their own resilience and learn about peaceful co-existence.”

He was honored to receive the award and says it rejuvenated him. “Being recognized for the work I am doing gives me hope and the courage to continue,” he says.

In the future Dakane hopes that Frayeo can offer its program throughout Minn. Currently they work in schools and community centers in Minneapolis, Edina and St. Paul.

“We go where the kids are and offer the program to them,” he says. “Then they tell their friends and we grow through word-of-mouth.”

Fartun Ismail was one of the people who nominated Dakane for the award. In his nominating form, Ismail said Dakane “connects with kids through joy” and he deserves the award because he is “a hero.”

This was the 10th year that the Leadership breakfast has been held. The supporting organizations ask for public input to identify the honorees each year. If you know other heroes who are working with children in the Edina community, information about the nominating process is on the Connecting with Kids website. Nominations for 2019 open in December 2018.