Last semester on a bit of a whim, my roommate Matt and I decided to join Keep it Real, a club that helps Somali-Bantu Refugees in Pittsburgh. I’ll never forget the first time that we met our family with 9 kids, the majority of whom are under grade 7. I was initially overwhelmed. Each child wanted to be held, wanted to play their own games, and Matt and I needed to simultaneously tutor them. After a few weeks though, we really got into the swing of things. Now our kids are truly like our brothers and sisters- they look up to us, and it’s our job to make sure that they stay motivated and go to college.
How did KIR start?
Initially a dissertation, KIR began for a service learning class of 20 to 30 students for a professor in 2005. However, the program had such a positive response that after class ended, students kept working with their families. In 2006, the Somali-Bantu refugees formed relationships with Pitt students, thus KIR was born. What’s more, KIR just won the Jefferson Award, a prestigious award for philanthropy and volunteer work.
Who is Keep It Real helping?
It helps the Somali-bantu refugees, who are a minority ethic group that faced persecution in their countries. The majority of the families are brought from Arab nations, native to Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zanzibar, as well as Somalia. Once the families obtain a refuge status, most reside in Kenya where they wait to seek asylum in a new country. The United States chose this group of people to receive asylum in Pittsburgh, PA.
My roommate Matt also happens to be the secretary for Keep It Real, so I asked him a few questions about the club.
What kind of things can a person expect from joining?
Matt: A challenge. It’s a very challenging but very rewarding experience. There are days when I get home from tutoring and am so tuckered out because the kids have endless enthusiasm and energy. But it’s so rewarding that you’re impacting their lives in such a positive manner.
What has Keep it Real taught you/ What experiences have you gained?
Matt: Patience. I can’t stress that enough. When you’re surrounded by a lot of kids under the age of 12, patience is a huge one. I really have learned what it means to be relied on. The kids look up to me, and I am a role model to them. It’s a lot of pressure.
Are you looking for new members?
Matt: Yes, definitely! We are always looking for new tutors. They can request an application at email@example.com