Building Bridges

When Sam Gabriel came to Des Moines as a teenager, he knew life would be different from the world he had left behind in a refugee camp on the Ivory Coast. What he couldn’t prepare for were the unique challenges he faced as a young man in his new home. “Soccer provided an immediate way for me to connect,” shares Sam, “but my family and I didn’t understand the cultural barriers that made participating in the sport I loved so difficult.”

After graduating from high school, Sam recognized the same hurdles facing young African refugees across Greater Des Moines. “Creating Genesis Youth Foundation crept up on me,” shares Sam. “I could see kids in our community struggling like I had and recognized I could bring them together through soccer.” His wife, Tricia, challenged him to think bigger, and together they added arts and cultural programming.

“Tricia and I believe that starting Genesis has been our calling,” shares Sam, “but sometimes that calling isn’t easy.” As the organization grew, Sam found himself meeting with the Community Foundation. “As a new organization, the Community Foundation has been there to support us. They provided a Capacity Building Grant to make sure we had the right policies in place. Our board attended their nonprofit training sessions and they have served as a hub for giving by connecting us with donors who want to learn more about our work. Genesis started to serve kids, but thanks to support like this, we are now building bigger bridges between our refugee community and our Greater Des Moines community.”