Making a Difference: Lul Omar a mentor, friend for local Somali families.

MANKATO — For Somali families settling in Mankato, a dizzying array of the unfamiliar and confounding confronts them — language, schooling, culture.

For the past decade, parents and their children have had a mentor, coach and friend in Lul Omar, the parent educator at the YWCA.

Omar, who was honored by staff Wednesday for her 10 years of work, said she has a deep kinship with those she works with.

“I feel I’m at home, it’s my family, my kids when I got to people’s homes when I work,” Omar said.

And, she said, being able to work at the YWCA and with families has helped her and her family’s own growth.

“Without the YWCA I wouldn’t know what I know today. I have great co-workers who support me.”

Jes Wysong, director of mission and social justice impact at the YWCA, said Omar is a vital connection between the organization and Somali and East African families.

“The value she brings to our agency is she belongs to the community she serves and she’s highly respected by them,” Wyson said.

“She has a passion for getting little ones ready for school, and she understands the challenges and prejudices they face.”

Omar works with about 10 families at a time, using a “Parents as Teachers” curriculum to help parents of young children prepare for school.

“Out twist is the cultural component,” Wysong said. “She will go in and focus on areas of child development, parent-child interactions and family well-being.”

Omar meets families in their homes and also has a monthly group meeting.

She lived in a few other countries and U.S. states, including 20 years in Atlanta, Georgia, before coming to the Mankato area.

Natasha Lopez-Rodriguez, executive director of the YWCA, said that when she took over her post more than a year ago and went around the community to meet people, Omar’s name often came up.

“Everyone mentioned what a service she provides and what a light she is. She has lots of community connections. She’s a wealth of knowledge and service to the community.”

Omar was teaching English as a second language classes and volunteering at the Lincoln Community Center a decade ago when then-executive director of the YWCA Anne Ganey met her and brought her on board.

Source: Free Press Minnesota