Kei Kamara was only 16 years old when he arrived in the United States from Sierra Leone, his native country. He participated in a variety of sports while in high school, but it was his involvement with soccer that has given him the opportunity to take part in various projects and give back to the communities that mean the most to him.
Last month, Kamara came across a letter that was circulating around his neighborhood. Donations were being solicited for gently used soccer equipment -- shoes, shorts, jerseys and balls -- that would be distributed to children in Sierra Leone. Although Kamara was surprised to see his name mentioned in the letter, he reached out to the writer, Laurel Nagengast, a senior at a high school approximately 40 minutes outside of Kansas City, to learn more and to find out how he could support the project.
“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.”
Karama took immediate action finding materials to donate and committed to make an appearance at the drop-off site. He used his twitter account -- @KeiKamara -- to tell his nearly 3,000 followers about Nagengast's efforts and to encourage additional donations.
Kamara tweets about everything from his love affair with Chipotle Mexican food to asking his followers to elect Justin Bieber Prime Minister of Canada. He stays connected to fans by telling them what he’s up to with short, quirky anecdotes and gets them excited about projects he is involved in. He has tweeted about his involvement with MLS W.O.R.K.S. and the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign and promoted teammate Jimmy Conrad's efforts for the Kansas City Wizard's Pepsi Refresh Project.
Recently, the Wizards welcomed 25 local refugee children to the club's training session. The refugees came from various countries across the globe, including Burma, Somalia, Iraq and Sierra Leone. Kamara, who came to the United States in 2000 as a refugee himself, talked to the children about his experience and his transition to life in America. He also signed autographs, took pictures and played soccer with them.
“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.”
Remaining close to his Sierra Leone roots is very important to Kamara, who spent his early youth in Africa. He visits frequently and still has plenty of family there. His ultimate goal is to create a foundation to aid the people of his home country.
“Ideally, I would like to do something scholarship based. 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 continued education in Sierra Leone. He was part of a scholarship donation to the Top 10 performing students from the primary school he attended. The children were selected based on scores from performance tests and attendance records.
Not only does Kamara focus on giving back to the children of Sierra Leone, but he is also proactive within the Kansas City community and does what he can to give back and help make a difference.
“We [athletes] have a good amount of free time when we're not traveling or practicing. 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 acknowledgement.”