Somali-American reflects: 'I didn't know what a lake meant'

Mahmud Kanyare
Mahmud Kanyare
Nikki Tundel for MPR News

Lake Andrew in Sibley State Park is the most loved lake for Mahmud Kanyare, director and co-founder of Youth and Family Circle in St. Paul.

"This one was special because of the size, the coolness, the freshness," he said. "When I went into it, it felt like something new, so it was special to me."

Kanyare, a refugee from Somalia, got to experience Lake Andrew for the first time during a sixth-grade camping trip that transformed his life.

"I was new to Minnesota," he said. "I didn't know what 'camp' meant. I didn't know what a 'lake' meant."

He fell in love with nature and now helps inner city youth and children of refugees get out to experience and enjoy the outdoors.

"A city boy or girl seeing a running river or lake for the first time ... says, 'Wow,'" he said. "No one has to tell them what to do. As they get closer and closer to the rivers or lake, all their senses come alive."

Hear him talk about his experiences using the audio player above.