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Spirit Award Honors Refugee Literacy Program

May 1, 2014, 9:55 PM by Jared Ransom

Spirit Award Honors Refugee Literacy Program
Abdul Sidow


Since creating an adult literacy program in 2010, Abdul Sidow and the Somali-Bantu Community Development Council has helped numerous refugees learn the English language. Those efforts are now being recognized with the Spirit Award.

"It has taken us a lot of time to organize the community, to pull resources from different places and basically start everything from scratch," Abdul Sidow said.

The program was started with an $840 grant from the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation. It began with 20 refugees, but has grown to 91 participants, all of them improving their skills with the English language. Four students have also passed a citizenship test.

"From the beginning, I knew that one way to help the refugee and migrant community is to provide them the opportunity to learn English and then they can simply become self-sufficient in their new community," Sidow said.

The Spirit Award comes with a $5,000 grant, which Sidow says will be used to increase the number of students and resources. The literacy program started by just helping Somali-Bantu refugees, but since 2012, it has expanded to help people from nine different countries.

That will now lead to a new name.

"The Refugee and Migrant Development Services of South Dakota, that will be the new name of the organization," Sidow said.

It's not just about helping one group of refugees. Sidow says he'll make this community better by helping everyone.

Sidow and the Somali-Bantu Community Development Council has also received a $250,000 federal grant to continue work on their Community Garden, which can be found by Hy-Vee on East 10th Street.

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