Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Reaching New Heights for Liberia's Children and Youth

2016 has been a phenomenal year for Uniting Distant Stars. Our learning center has become the "hub" for children and youth seeking educational assistance and vocational training. Since introducing the computer lab in March, word got out, and youth are coming to our site from several different areas throughout Monrovia to receive this training. Without a doubt, we have outgrown our current site with serving over 100 students. 

Youth attending introduction computer class in UDS Library.
A few months ago, our co-founder and country director, Kelvin Fomba, found a building less than a five-minute walk from our current location. The property had not been occupied for two years, the building was deteriorating, and its grounds had become the community trash dump. After several weeks of negotiations, the landlord agreed to a 5-year lease for $7,500 and required half down to secure it. After sharing this opportunity with one of our long-time donors in Minnesota, they generously donated $3,750 on May 22. Two weeks later we received the lease agreement and keys to the building. The remaining half of the lease must be paid after the renovations are complete. 

This is our next challenge.

The building had stood empty for two years. Along with a leaking roof, parts of the interior were heavily damaged by water. The rainy season started about April/May and the roof became the number one priority. The question was how?

However, we have been blessed to receive a $1,000 donation from a sustaining supporter in Liberia. This generous gift covered the cost to replace half the roof. Our team worked overtime on Friday, July 8, and Saturday, July 9, installing new sheets of zinc metal on half the roof. Another $1,000 will complete this job to prevent any further damage from the heavy rains, and we are hoping to reach this fundraising goal soon.

Roof before the replacement. 
Kelvin Fomba on the roof during its replacement. 
The brand new, shiny roof. 
Our youth played another important role in the development of our new site. About 50 kids came out on Saturday, July 9 and worked 8 hours removing the trash from all sides of the building. These boys and girls completed 75% of the trash removal during this one day. Our youth want this center to open as soon as possible that they pray each day for this to happen. They wanted to show you, as our supporter, what this means to them by investing some sweat equity with cleaning the place.

Our youth outside the fence cleaning up the garbage.
Our girls worked just as hard as the boys shoveling up trash.
Youth cleaning trash between the fence and building.
Empty rice bags were used to place the garbage as it was scoped up by shovel.
Girls and boy working together to clean their future learning center.
Two young ladies hauling a bag of garbage. 
As you can see from this last photo, this building was a school and perfect place for our new learning center. Our goal is open this year and we need $22,000 to cover the remaining costs as follows:
  1. Complete all renovations for the roof, three bathrooms, ceiling tile and doors, and painting the interior and exterior that includes materials and labor.
  2. Buy equipment such as desk, chairs, benches, and storage cabinet. Also basic office supplies.
  3. Install the electricity and interest, and pay for the first-year of service.
  4. Pay stipends for computer and sewing trainers, study class teachers, security guards, receptionist/secretary, and janitor. These stipends for 11 people are below market value, but a starting point to employ Liberians. 
We are reaching out to individuals and organizations interested in partnering or sponsoring this initiative. If you know anyone that could help, please send an email to info@unitingdistantstars.com. We are available to meet in person, or through Skype or Google Hangout. 

Your generous support allowed Uniting Distant Stars to reach new heights in providing educational resources and vocational training to Liberia's children and youth. Thank you for being our Rock Star!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

6th Annual School Supply Drive for Liberia

You gave these supplies to this Rogma Student.
Uniting Distant Stars is happy to announce our 6th Annual School Supply Drive in supporting three community primary schools in Liberia: Rogma International, City of Joy and Russ Wood Christian Academy. Last year, we discontinued collecting and sending supplies in the U.S. because of the exorbitant costs and constant delays from shipping Trans-Atlantic. We now buy the supplies in Liberia, which helps boost their economy, after recent stagnation by the Ebola Crisis. By donating as little as $10, you can help one student start the 2016/2017 school year with a smile.

You gave these supplies to this City of Joy Student.
We're starting this year's campaign with $650 from recent donations, which is almost 10% of our goal: $7,000. We are serving 700 students attending these three schools, so that equates to $10.00 per student. The families of these children are not able to provided these much needed supplies. Again, your generous gift  by cash, check or credit card will equip these young students with the supplies they need to be successful during the upcoming school year. Your contribution buys notebooks, pencils, pens, and much more.  

You gave these supplies to this Russ Wood Student.


As an added incentive, you will receive one of the following:
  • If you donate $100 or more, you will receive a hand-written Thank You letter from one student from any one of the three schools. 
  • If you donate $500 or more, you will receive three hand-written Thank You letters from one student from each school. 
Letters will be scanned and emailed during the months of September and October after the students receive their gifts of school supplies from you. 

Anna Bertch, Uniting Distant Stars National Youth Leader, had donated to one of our prior campaigns and she shares how one of these student hand-written letter touched her heart. Please read her post "My Thank You Letter". 

Please donate either by Check or PayPal as follows:


Check: please make out the check to Uniting Distant Stars and mail the check to: 


   Uniting Distant Stars or UDS
4010 Lawndale LN N
Plymouth, MN 55446

PayPal: click the button below to donate by credit or debit card.


 

Below is our flyer created by Anna. Please print our PDF copy (click here) to post on community boards at your favorite coffee shop, restaurant, or anywhere else flyers are allowed. Please share this blog post on your social media sites to help these 700 students receive their school supplies at the start of the year September. 

Thank you for your continued generosity and kindness in supporting the education of young children in Liberia! 

My Thank You Letter

In response to a recent donation I made to UDS, I received an email with a scanned image of a letter written to me from one of the recipients of my donation: Jeremy S. Poguah.

Here’s what Jeremy wrote to me: “Hi Miss Anna Bertch, I greet you with God love. I write to express my thanks to you for the computer lab you people open for us. I praise God so much for you and your family. I hope to see you one day in our country Liberia. We also express many thanks to the Uniting Distant Stars for helping us with our learning. May the Lord bless you.”

This sweet letter has become a treasure to me, and a printed copy now hangs framed on my wall. As part of our 6th Annual School Supply Drive, you too will receive this joy from one of our students when you make a donation of:
  1. $100 or more, you will receive a letter from one student.
  2. $500 or more, you will receive three letters from three different students.
The students will receive their school supplies in September and the letters will be emailed to you during the months of September and October.

Your generosity has led to immense changes in the lives of these youth, and they would love to express their gratitude to you!

When both recipient and donor are lifted alike, it becomes apparent that the contributions of time, money, and prayers is worthwhile. I would like to express my own personal gratitude for these kids and for the important work Uniting Distant Stars is doing.

Many Blessings,

Anna Bertch, Uniting Distant Stars National Youth Leader

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Raising Awareness at Ten Thousand Villages

Thank you for shopping at the Ten Thousand Villages Community Shopping Event held on May 21st! Your purchases (between 12:00pm- 4:00pm) were tallied, and 15%, approximately $225, was donated to Uniting Distant Stars. We also received about $23 in cash donations. Because of your generosity, 25 students will receive school supplies from our upcoming Annual School Supplies Drive, which will be supporting three primary schools (serving 700 students) in Liberia.

We would also like to express our immense gratitude toward Ten Thousand Villages for hosting this community shopping event on our behalf. This opportunity allowed for us to showcase our commitment to serving children and youth in Liberia, by providing them with educational resources and vocational training. We would also like to express a particular note of thanks to Ten Thousand Villages' store manager, Julie, and her staff. They helped make it a successful day!

Uniting Distant Stars Information Table showcases your continued generosity. 
Our UDS volunteers did a great job representing our cause at the event. We are extremely grateful to this dedicated, talented team for contributing to the success of our organization. Special Acknowledgments to: Miriam Monono, Diane Anastos, Adam Pederson, Mary Rosendahl, Philip Kaleewoun II, and Florkime Paye.

UDS Board Members (left to right):Miriam, Diane and Adam.
Left to Right: UDS Co-founder & Executive Director Heather, Board Members Philip and Mary.
At our information table, we showcased a sample of a UDS backpack made by a Liberian teen from the Backpacks for Peace program. The backpacks constructed in this program are used not only as vessels for the Liberian youth to transport school materials, but they also serve as our Emergency Preventative Kit prototype (filled with mosquito netting, water filter, masks, gloves and more). Go to our projects page to see a photo of the items in this backpack.

UDS Backpack for Peace being worn by Heather is something you made possible. 
In addition to all these exciting developments, we received the Dimes for Dreams cans! Ten Thousand Villages became the first ever UDS supporter to put one of our cans on their counter. We’d like to issue another “thank you” to them for helping us kickstart this fundraising campaign. More details about this project are coming soon from our campaign coordinators Adam and Florkime.

UDS Dimes for Dreams cans are in and ready to start our campaign on June 1
Additionally, our “Recipes for Learning Sample Cookbook arrived recently. Mary, our project lead, created this mock-up to show potential sponsors how they can benefit from helping this important initiative. There will be much more to share about this project in the near future.

UDS Recipes for Learning Sample Cookbook to show to potential sponsors.
For those who were not able to attend the Ten Thousand Villages Community Shopping Event, we will be back on December 3rd! We will continue to share with you how your support is changing the lives of Liberian children and youth in real time.

Announcements for this event will be published in November.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Always Youth Volunteer Opportunities!

My name is Anna Bertch, and I am currently a sophomore in Highschool. My mission for Uniting Distant Stars is to help promote growth and awareness of Uniting Distant Stars by enlisting the help of youth throughout the U.S.. Much of what I do consists of using media (digital/video, written blogs, etc.) to help get the word out and gain support for Uniting Distant Stars. The fortunate thing about this day and age is most of the youth in the U.S. have access to some form of technology; this eliminates the issue of age entirely, so everyone can get involved!  

The ways to contribute are endless and volunteering can take many forms. But, teens here in the U.S. should consider how they can serve, what their talents are, and what they can bring to the cause. Whether it’s getting together with friends and hosting a fundraiser event, talking to school leaders about launching a school club, or simply talking to people who have connections to sponsors or ideas; everything makes a difference!

As an organization that is centered on building up the Liberian youth, UDS gives immense value to the creativity and effort put forth by American children, teens, and young adults. Everyone has voice, and UDS will draw positivity from whatever your influence is.

Individuals that are interested in getting involved with Uniting Distant Stars can contact me directly via email: anna@unitingdistantstars.com. Questions, thoughts, and ideas are welcome!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Ten Thousand Villages Community Shopping Event on May 21

We invite you to come and support Uniting Distant Stars at the Ten Thousand Villages Community Shopping Event at 3825 50th Street in Minneapolis on May 21 from 12PM to 4PM. Ten Thousand Villages sells Fair Trade Handmade items from artisans living in developing nations. This event will be a great opportunity to find special gifts for upcoming birthdays, graduations and weddings. Ten Thousand Villages will donate 15% from the eligible sales during the event. Please visit our table to see a sample of our backpack and learn more about our programs serving youth in Liberia. We look forward to seeing you there!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Press Release: Introducing 2016 Board Officers

Minnesota, May 1, 2016: Uniting Distant Stars proudly introduces our 2016 Board Officers. Diane Anastos retains her role as board chair for the second consecutive year. Adam Pederson is our newest board member, who was installed as secretary at the April 20 quarterly meeting. Cynthia Asante, a founding member, became treasurer at the UDS Annual Meeting in January. Each January the board nominates interested candidates for the three officer positions and cast their votes on who will serve in these roles for the coming year. Please go to About UDS and Team to read the board officers' bios.

Congratulations Diane, Adam and Cynthia!!!

Uniting Distant Stars™, Inc. is a 501(c)3 tax deductible organization registered non-profit corporation in Minnesota, and accredited and registered no-government organization (NGO) in Liberia, West Africa. Its programs serve youth in Liberia. We provide educational support with scholarships and school supply drives. We also offer innovative programming such as our Backpacks for Peace to cultivate future leaders. For more information, please contact us at info@unitingdistantstars.com