Refugees at state parks

Khalid Musse (left) and Abubakar Sherif (center) grab Bukhari Booker during a game of capture the flag at Sibley State Park in mid-June. More than 75 kids and their family members spent five days at this year's Youth and Family Circle summer camp. Photo by Christine T. Nguyen, MPR News

Boating, swimming, hiking and singing songs around a campfire are summer traditions for many Minnesotans. But if you didn't grow up with the lake life, how do you learn it?

Over the last eight years, the Youth and Family Circle has been dedicated to connecting city kids and children of refugees to those experiences, often for the first time. Each summer the group hosts camp at a state park for several days, helping kids and their families learn to enjoy the outdoors.

"We don't want this to be a strange thing for them anymore," said Mahmud Kanyare, who co-founded the nonprofit with Mahdi Osman. "We want to make sure that the resources that are provided for every other community are also provided for the immigrants."

Language, lack of information and finances are often barriers to kids enjoying Minnesota's lake life. And outdoor recreation can fall outside the norm for immigrant parents, which is why they're invited along to experience camp along with the kids.

Summer camp is also a way to change perceptions about who enjoys outdoor recreation, said Osman.

"People of different cultures than me," Osman said, "they're surprised to hear that East Africans or Muslims they go camping and just have fun like anyone else."