Wizards’ Kamara earns humanitarian award
Kansas City Wizards forward Kei Kamara has been named Major League Soccer’s Humanitarian of the Month for September, the League announced Wednesday.
Kamara has excelled both on and off the field for Kansas City in 2010, recording career highs in both goals and assists while also giving back to his community in a variety of philanthropic endeavors.
Kamara emigrated to the United States in 2000 as a teenager and his experience as a refugee from his native Sierra Leone has inspired him to seek out opportunities for involvement in his community. Last month, he helped support a Lawrence High School student’s drive to collect new and gently used soccer equipment to send to Sierra Leone. Kamara helped promote the event on his Twitter account, in addition to personally donating items and attending the event to sign autographs and interact with those who dropped off belongings.
“He called me on the phone…and when I found out it was him, I was a little bit speechless,” said Laurel Nagengast, the student who coordinated the collection. “He was telling me things like, ‘I can’t wait to meet you,’ and ‘God bless,’ and I was like, 'wow, I can’t believe this.'”
“She never even asked me to be part of it,” Kamara told MLSsoccer.com. “I just read what she was doing and knew I wanted to get involved. When I called, I assumed it would be a teacher at the school I was contacting, I had no idea it was someone even younger than myself.”
Kamara continues to be involved with MLS W.O.R.K.S., the League’s community outreach initiative, as well as the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign to raise awareness and funding to combat malaria.
Last month, the Wizards welcomed 25 local refugee children to a team training session and Kamara took the lead in welcoming the youth from various countries across the globe, including Burma, Somalia, Iraq and Sierra Leone. Kamara talked to the children about his experience and his transition to life in America, and also signed autographs, took pictures and played soccer with the local youth.
“Soccer served as a universal language for us,” said Kamara. “Even though I didn’t speak the same language as many of them, we could just play and communicate on the field.”
Kamara, who recently appeared for the Sierra Leone National Team in an important African Cup of Nations qualifier against defending continental champions Egypt, is actively pursuing the opportunity to establish a foundation to aid his homeland and the people in Sierra Leone. He visits frequently and still has many family members there.
“Ideally, I would like to do something scholarship based,” Kamara said. “Many young kids do not continue their education after primary school because their parents cannot afford to send them. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to play soccer and obtain an education. I want to take the blessings I've been given and help others obtain their dreams, whatever they may be.”
Kamara recently had his first opportunity to aid educational efforts in Sierra Leone as part of a scholarship donation for the top 10 performing students from the primary school he attended. The children who received the scholarships were selected based on scores from performance tests and their attendance records.
Not only does Kamara focus on giving back to the children of Sierra Leone, but he is also active within the Kansas City community to give back and help make a difference.
“We [athletes] have a good amount of free time when we're not traveling or practicing,” Kamara said. “A lot of us think about how we can utilize our time and give back. I take that very seriously and I'm proud to contribute. I'm honored to be recognized, but I just do it to do it, not for the acknowledgment.”
Kamara will attend a local refugee soccer tournament on Friday, sponsored by the Don Bosco’s Youth Center. The “Fall Futbol Extravaganza” will begin at 2 p.m. at the Don Bosco ESL Center at 526 Campbell Street in Kansas City, Mo. It is a free tournament that aims to get refugees more involved in the community and extracurricular activities, and the event will also include an informational fair for refugee students and parents.
Kamara is Kansas City’s leading scorer with ten goals this season, which is tied for fifth most in Major League Soccer in 2010.