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Radio station strives to connect Somalis with local news

Yusuf and Prchal talk Thursday, March 21 in a studio at St. Cloud State University's KVSC 88.1 FM in Stewart Hall. Yusuf is the project developer for St. Cloud Somali Radio.
Yusuf and Prchal talk Thursday, March 21 in a studio at St. Cloud State University's KVSC 88.1 FM in Stewart Hall. Yusuf is the project developer for St. Cloud Somali Radio. / Kimm Anderson, kanderson@stcloudtimes.com

St. Cloud Times
Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bringing local news to local residents — that’s the idea behind KVSC Radio’s latest project.

St. Cloud Somali Radio, set to launch Monday, will combine news and music made by and for the Somali community.

“They’re humans, they’re individuals, they have a story to tell, and I think it’s very important that they’re heard,” said Haji Abu, the program’s project developer.

The programming will feature local news and talk programs mostly in the Somali language. KVSC Radio also has purchased the rights to play 530 popular Somali songs, which will play when news isn’t on the air.

As the program matures and gains an audience and volunteer base, the programming is likely to expand.

“Ideally, this station isn’t just for the Somali community, but it allows the Somali community to connect with the larger community here in St. Cloud, and for that larger community to connect back with the Somali community,” said Ben Prchal, who is the project coordinator for St. Cloud Somali Radio.

“Some of the Somali immigrants do the hardest jobs in Central Minnesota,” Abu said. “We want the contributions of immigrants in Central Minnesota to be heard. That’s one voice that’s very silent, that’s important.”

The program received $46,580 from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Legacy fund. The money pays for a part-time program coordinator position, promotion, equipment, supplies, interpreter services and streaming technology.

Ahmed Abdi, a volunteer host and language interpreter in St. Cloud who hosts the St. Cloud Times Somali News show at www.sctimes.com/somalinews, says he hopes the programming will help Somali immigrants and refugees feel connected to their community in a way they haven’t before.

He said many St. Cloud Somalis who aren’t fluent in English may know more about news in Somalia than in Minnesota.

“Once you understand what’s happening, then you can connect,” Abdi said. “If you don’t understand what’s happening, you are not connected.”

Abdi also said this would be another opportunity for local governments and businesses to interact with the Somali-speaking population to help them make informed decisions.

“I would like the local Somali community to understand more about this community, its history and what’s happening daily,” Abdi said.

Abdi will host news programming on St. Cloud Somali Radio.

Ben Prchal said the program fits with the overall goals of KVSC Radio: bringing smaller voices to the larger population.

He said that apart from some minor issues with the language barrier, set-up and volunteer recruiting has been going smoothly.

As of now, there is a core group of 8-10 volunteers who run the station. Prchal hopes that number will be closer to 50 as more people listen to the programming and find out how to get involved.

The biggest barrier, according to Abdi, is finding time to volunteer when you’re working or looking for work.

His hope is that St. Cloud State students or people with more free time will chip in.

Now that the significant startup costs have been paid by the initial grant, there will be less need for additional funding. The recording studios are part of KVSC’s studio space, and the talent is mostly volunteer.

“The money that we have now is going to allow St. Cloud Somali Radio to live on beyond that grant funding,” Prchal said.

Prchal said that giving the Somali population “a stronger sense of place within the St. Cloud community” is among his goals, especially because many current residents were born or have lived most of their lives in the area.

“It’s more home to them in some ways than Somalia,” Prchal said. “Knowing that that cultural shift happens over the generations, it’s important, we feel, to provide this place for people to feel more connected, not only to each other but to the larger community.”




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