Minnesota and Haiti kids to cross cultures in soccer exchange program

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A youth soccer foundation in St. Paul has been chosen to host an athletic exchange program with Haiti, according to an announcement from The Sanneh Foundation. 

In the exchange, the U.S Department of State's SportsUnited Program will give Minnesota youth the opportunity to travel to Haiti to play soccer, and kids and coaches from Haiti will have the chance to travel and play in the U.S, the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association says.

The Pioneer Press reports the SportsUnited Program will give the St. Paul-based foundation a $250,000 grant to cover about one-third of the costs. The paper says the Sanneh Foundation is one of 10 organizations worldwide chosen to host an international sports exchange program on behalf of SportsUnited.

The Sanneh Foundation says the exchange program lasts about six months. There will be a spring 2016 exchange when Minnesota kids and coaches travel to Haiti for a week. Then in July, Haitian kids and coaches will travel to Minnesota for two weeks.

A similar exchange will take place in 2017, according to the Pioneer Press.

The paper says Sanneh will work with more than a hundred kids between the ages of 13 and 17 over the course of those two summers. About 40 of those kids will be visiting Minnesota from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The application to participate in the 2016 exchange is due by December 31.

About the foundation

Tony Sanneh, a retired soccer player from Minnesota, started the Sanneh Foundation in 2003 after playing for the U.S. men's team at the World Cup in South Korea and Japan, the Pioneer Press says.

He started the foundation to support community-based organizations and provide a positive environment for urban youth, according to the foundation's website. The foundation works to improve the quality of life in urban communities and provide programs for underprivileged kids.

Sanneh, the foundation's president and executive director, says it's aimed at giving all children the opportunity to learn, grow and succeed.

The Pioneer Press reports Sanneh started working with Haitian organizations after earthquake in 2010.

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