Omaha has a reputation for welcoming refugees; however, in a lot of cases, the help needed to fully integrate them into a new society isn’t provided. The Simple Foundation, founded in 2012 by Osuman Issaka, alongside his brother Sal, is dedicated to helping instill key values into the kids in the program-75 percent of whom are refugees or immigrants.
The Issakas were born in Ghana and later moved to Chicago when their family came to the United States. Growing up in a family-based culture led Issaka to learn the importance of charity. “In my culture, at least in our tribe, giving back is not a choice, it’s a responsibility,” Issaka said.
Although Issaka delegated a lot of his energy into helping others, he and his brother felt that they weren’t reaching as many kids as they were able to-so came the Simple Foundation.
“Our mission is truly providing a diverse environment to provide multiple outcomes for various different cultures,” Issaka said. Within the organization there are multiple programs that focus on not only providing a safe environment for all those involved to flourish, but they also center on teaching responsibility, work ethic and setting up for success.
The programs include A Simple Path to Build Legacy, Academic Excellence and College for Success, Boduri (Girls), Family Advocacy and Resource, Youth Forum, International Initiative and the Youth Academy. These focus on teaching youth study tips, entrepreneurship, community service and teamwork. “One of the things we focus on is integration rather than assimilation. When you integrate, you hone in on everyone’s individuality and you respect that to create this environment of a variety of views and cultures,” Issaka said.
The Simple Foundation’s Youth Academy is an athletic program which was originally a soccer club that competed with clubs around the area, like OFC, NFC, Lincoln and Gretna, and competed in multi-state tournaments. Recently, they have added a track team to the program.
However, this program isn’t only about improving their playing skills. It’s about learning how to work with others by being part of a team of kids from different backgrounds. “Soccer is the draw, but learning social skills with teammates is huge. They learn leadership and understanding, and gain the ability to listen to other peoples’ point of view,” Issaka said.
With soccer being the most popular sport in the world, it’s an event that can unite everyone together, no matter where they came from.
The good work of Simple Foundation has not gone unnoticed. The Omaha community has been extremely charitable and enthusiastic to help out this organization. Organizations as big as Good Sports, Inc. and USA Soccer have partnered with the foundation to help out their cause. The services are 100 percent free for those involved; however, they have to put work in by volunteering at the center.
The Simple Foundation provides a path for success for young people who haven’t previously been given the opportunity. The best way to do that, in the eyes of Issaka, is education. “Whether it’s a four-year college or a two-year college, getting the skills to be a self-sufficient individual is what success looks like. We need carpenters, we need politicians and we need a president. Whatever they love, we try to hone in on,” Issaka said.