Kei Kamara has made a tremendous impact on the field for Columbus Crew SC this year. He's lead the offense while scoring 22 goals. Today, he was recognized for his even bigger impact off the field when he was named the MLS Works Humanitarian of the Year.
Kamara was born in Sierra Leone during a time of transition. The one party rule political system was breaking down and devolved into full civil war by the early 1990's. Kamara traveled to the Gambia with his extended family until he was allowed to come to the United States as part of a refugee relocation program. Eventually he'd make his way to MLS and a transfer to England.
Despite becoming an American citizen, Kamara never forgot his deep roots to his birth country. He has represented Sierra Leone 21 times internationally. Recently, Kamara has teamed up with fellow Sierra Leonean Michael LaHoud of the Philadelphia Union to continue to give back to Sierra Leone by partnering with Schools for Salone. LaHoud and Kamara helped build the Education for All Primary School in Freetown, the capital of the country.
The school helps poor and disadvantaged students in the Allen Town neighborhood where there wasn't effective early education due to poverty and the effects of the decade long civil war.
Kamara also raised awareness for the Ebola epidemicthat struck west Africa earlier this year in a series of commercials highlighting the critical need for assistance in arresting the spread of the deadly virus that killed nearly 4,000 people in his homeland.
Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter knows the kind of person the team has in Kamara, "We certainly know Kei has had a fantastic season on the field, but it is his off-the-field humanitarian work back in Sierra Leone and locally here in the Columbus community that truly represents what type of person Kei is," Berhalter said in a release earlier today, "He is most deserving of this honor."
MLS Insider produced a short film about Kamara's journey from his homeland and back again. It's well worth watching to understand the inspiring person behind the goal scoring player.
Kamara is also a finalist for MLS MVP to be announced later this month.