Sunday, February 12, 2017

See What's Baking at Uniting Distant Stars

There is nothing more thrilling than tapping into your creative spirit to make the impossible possible. That is exactly what Kelvin Fomba, Uniting Distant Stars Co-Founder & Country Director, did for our catering course! When we needed an oven for our students to bake, but could not afford one, Kelvin used his available resources and innovation to build one! Below is a photo of the finished product: charcoal-heated oven built from a repurposed upright freezer.

Here is Kelvin showing how this oven works.
Kelvin insulated the inner walls and door before covering it with a metal plate, then welded the bars for the different levels of racks. The bottom is open and a charcoal pot is on the ground underneath, with a water pan placed over the charcoal to regulate the heat. This is located in well-ventilated room so no concerns for carbon monoxide. 

On Wednesday, February 8th, this oven was put to work! Our co-teachers, Mrs. Annie Cooper & Mrs. Sandi Akasi, had our students mixing batter for cornbread, shortbread & pancakes. The two breads were baked in the oven, while the pancakes were cooked in a fry pan. The results were delicious! The sweet aroma coming from the oven distracted our students from the other courses, so everyone took a break to sample these tasty treats. 

Our catering students adding & mixing the ingredients.

This is young woman is receiving positive feedback.

She is putting the shortbread in the pan for baking.

The cornbread is in the muffin tins on the top shelf & the shortbread underneath.

Looking rather tasty. The shortbread is a nice golden brown. 

UDS Catering Instructors (left to right), Annie & Sandi are displaying the sweet success of shortbread.

This young woman is flipping  pan cake over. 

The results of  their work is tasty treats for everyone.

Left to right, Kelvin, Godfrey & Patrick enjoyed every bite of these delicious goodies from our students.
It was an exciting day for everyone because they got to witness how this inventive oven worked. The students were able to see how one of their leaders solved a "need" by working hard and using his creativity; Kelvin is an example and a leader to everyone at UDS, internationally!

Because of Kelvin's efforts, students will be able to gain the practical experience needed for a catering career. During the next nine months they will be learning how to bake and cook different types of foods for weddings, graduations and other special events. 

There is plenty more to come regarding all our courses, and we are extremely grateful for those of you who have donated in the last couple weeks. All of these funds will be used toward providing the practical tools for our students in our courses-which will include more innovations from our team! 

You are stars, and your compassion and generosity empowers Liberian youth to shine brighter.

Thank you wholeheartedly for being a valued member of the Uniting Distant Stars Community!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Joy of Training Youth to Succeed

As the clock ticks closer to the first vocational training classes at our training center, our Team Liberia is working fervently to finalize preparations! Our team is ecstatic to show you, our dedicated Star Supporter, their passion and resolve in helping to equip young Liberians with the skills they need to be self-sufficient. You are giving them the drive to ensure everything is set for the opening day on February 1st. 

Since the last post "Small Steps Lead to Big Goals", our team continues to:
  1. Prepare the training center for the classes.
  2. Purchase the "Tools to Success" (i.e. computers)
  3. Hold a student orientation, and 
  4. Share our story on Radio Advent's talk show 
Training Center Preparations: Our extremely talented volunteers have fixed the remaining two toilets (there are four bathrooms) and built removable partitions in our great hall for the individual classes. Our training center is hooked up to the city water supply, and work is needed to connect to the pipes in the building. Sanitation and conducive learning environments are critical for our students.

One of two new commodes replaced to ensure all four bathrooms are working.
Daude, who is a young volunteer, with skills in carpentry and masonry. 

Daude built the removable partitions in our great hall. 
Tools for Success: Our team started purchasing the equipment and materials that students will use for their practical training. Our computer training program draws the most students. This is why seven used desktops were purchased this week to increase our total to 16! Our goal is 20, if we can find a vendor who has available computers. Also, another essential item was purchased: a printer! Some of our courses will require worksheets as part of the learning tools. 

Your generosity purchased these desktops being installed in our computer lab.

UDS Co-Founder & Country Director, Kelvin Fomba, helping volunteers with the installation. 
Thank you for this much needed printer!

Student Orientation: Friday, January 27th, About 50 young men and women attended an orientation session at our training center. They were introduced to their instructors, toured the facility, received information on program rules and code of conduct, were provided the schedule, and much more. Currently, about 40 students have registered for our 8 courses--Electricity, Auto Mechanics, Plumbing, Computers, Interior Design, Cosmetology, Hotel Management and Catering. While there is interest for our two other courses: sewing and masonry, students have not paid their registration fee yet.

Kelvn Fomba welcoming young Liberian to our student orientation. 

Our instructors introduce themselves to the students, Kelvin will be training the auto mechanics. 

Computer students meet their instructor and learn about the expectation for this course. 
Talk Show: Also, on January 27, Kelvin Fomba (UDS Co-Founder & Country Director), Godfrey Solomon (Hossana Children's Foundation Co-Founder & UDS Volunteer), and Patrick Junusa, Jr. (UDS Volunteer) participated on Radio Advent's talk show. One of the broadcasters of this station, Thomas Jefferson, expressed an interest in partnering with UDS. He and others are interested in participating in our training classes to learn a skill while offering us free time on the airwaves to share our services. This radio station is walking distance from our center so this a perfect relationship!

Kelvin on the left and Godfrey on the right. 

Patrick on the left and Kelvin on the right. 
The Joy of Training Youth to Succeed was made possible by your compassion and selflessness! There is not enough ways for us to express our heartfelt appreciation and thanks for your continued to support in making Young Stars in Liberia shine brighter. 

Press Release: Introducing 2017 Board Officers and New Youth Board Member

Minnesota, January 28th- Uniting Distant Stars proudly introduces our 2017 Board Officers! The board added a vice chair to our officer position to serve as backup for the chair. Miriam Monono is our new board chair, who has served as the lead for our fundraiser committee since joining in 2014. Florkime Paye steps into the vice chair role and she has been serving various capacities since 2014. Adam Pederson retains his role as secretary for the second consecutive year, who became a board member in 2016. Diane Anastos moves into the treasurer role after graciously serving as the board chair for the last two years.


Left to right: Miriam Monono (chair), Florkime Paye (vice chair), Adam Pedeson (secretary),  Diane Anastos (treasurer)
We are excited to announce the installation of Anna Bertch as our first youth board member. As a youth organization, it is vital to bring in the voices of teenagers, who best understand the unique perspectives of the people we serve in Liberia. We hope to add one more teenager to our board in the coming months.


Anna Bertch
Please welcome and congratulate Miriam, Florkime, Adam, Diane and Anna to their new positions with the Uniting Distant Stars Board!!!

Uniting Distant Stars™, Inc. is a 501(c)3 tax deductible organization registered non-profit corporation in Minnesota, and accredited and registered non-government organization (NGO) in Liberia, West Africa. We operate a training center in Liberia providing academic support such as after school study classes and vocational training courses to youth. For more information, please contact us at info@unitingdistantstars.com

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Small Steps Lead to Big Goals

When you set a goal, it is always recommended to outline the small steps you plan to take, in order to bring it to fruition. Somewhere along your journey, it's natural to question when will you reach your destination; but, if you just keep walking, you will eventually see how every brave, thoughtful step worked together to bring your goal to realization. 

You walked with us each step of the way, as we strove to turn our dreams into a reality for these last three and half years. The benevolence you've shown for the children and youth in Liberia has allowed us to Reach New Heights in 2016, with acquiring and opening the Uniting Distant Stars Training Center. Now, as we move into 2017, you have provided the opportunity to launch our Vocational Training Classesstarting February 1st. 

Godfrey is holding one of the shirts selected for the vocational training students' uniforms.
We extend a whole-hearted "Thanks" for your unyielding generosity during our year-end campaign. You collectively raised $3,520 for our Tools for Success Campaign. Another $1,315 was added for the continuation of our Backpacks for Peace program, since sewing is one of the vocational training classes being offered at our center. This week our team in Liberia will be purchasing these Tools for Success to ensure our eager students benefit from our classes. 

During the first three weeks of 2017, Team Liberia has been busy with prepping for the upcoming classes. On Saturday, January 14, they held an informational program for students who passed the entrance exam. They invited people from the community and raised $110 in donations. $100 came from one of the guests, and $10 from a student who registered for classes; what a vote of confidence it is to collect this student donation! 

UDS Youth Leader Princess gives the opening address at the informational program.

You have provided a pathway for these young people to learn valuable skills.

Mrs. Audrey Johnson, who works at the airport donated $100 and gave an inspirational talk to our youth. 

The $110 donation was quickly invested in the ongoing renovations of our training center. They enclosed the open pathway between the property fence and the wall of building to create more usable space for our programs. They roofed it and cast the floor. 

Our team enclosed this pathway between the fence and outer wall of the building. 

UDS Co-Founder and Country Director, Kelvin Fomba, casting the floor for this new space. 

Our volunteers bringing in the sand and cement which will be hand-mixed before it is poured.
Thank you for staying the course with us, as we carry forward on our journey toward providing young Liberians with education and vocational training opportunities

Monday, January 2, 2017

Highlights from 2016 Christmas Celebration

In celebrating our successes, we are celebrating YOU, our highly valued Star Supporters! Uniting Distant Stars held our first-ever Christmas Celebration at our new training center for over 350 children and youth on December 26. 

The event ran from noon to 7PM (GMT) and it was a fun-filled day. The children performed skits, cultural dances, sang favorite songsand shared funny stories. They were served a nourishing meal of Jollof Rice (Liberian favorite), Potato Salad and Chicken. They participated in a raffle draw for three prizes: 1st - Bag of Rice, 2nd - Package of Breakfast Food such as Quaker Oats, and 3rd - Backpack (made by our youth) filled with school Supplies.  

Our team of dedicated volunteers worked around the clock in preparing the food and activities for this highly appreciated event. A heartfelt Thanks to AB, Blessing, Deborah, Godfrey, Ishmail, Korlu, Korpu, Ma Siah, Mamie, Princess, Roseline, Saah, Umaru and all volunteers who made this celebration a joyous occasion!

Please take a moment and watch this short video showing the photos of our children and youth celebrating YOU!


Thank you for making 2016 our best year!!! 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays

You are the reason for this season because you brought joy, hope and opportunities to young talent in Liberia. While you bring the light of inspiration, we experienced an electrical blackout for about three weeks in Liberia. A wire blew off pole during a storm and $5 per from each household and business was needed to repair it. 

With this being repaired, we have some photos to share with you about our recent student recruitment for the 2017 vocational training classes. Also, there are photos of our team prepping the building for our Christmas Celebration for our youth and volunteers on December 26. Please sit back and enjoy the photos of what you make possible in Liberia!
Young talent hand-inking T-Shirts for our volunteers for the student recruitment on November 19. 
As you can see great detail went into hand-inking each of the 60 T-shirts made for the volunteers.
Interested youth have attended meetings about the vocational training classes in 2017.
As you can see both young women and men have attended these meetings. 
The information meetings share what is expected by the students and also Uniting Distant Stars for the 2017 training.
The students are required to take an entrance exam to be accepted for this upcoming training courses.
You will be happy to hear 120 students have passed their entrance exam.

Our team has been busy since Friday preparing the inside and outside of the center for our Christmas Celebration.
They white washed the fence and steps. 
Kelvin Fomba, UDS Co-Founder & Country Director, using  cutlass to cut the grass. 
You will be receiving photos, stories and much more from tomorrow's Christmas Celebration. All of UDS volunteers in Liberiand the U.S. wish you all a very Happy Hannukkah, Merry Christmas and Holidays.

Thank you for being part of our amazing Star Supporters Community!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Did you take secondary school shop classes?

​Your continued support is making a huge impact on the lives of children and youth in Liberia! Your investment in their knowledge and skill building at our training center is an investment into their futures as builders, educators, innovators and leaders. You have raised $2,090 (38%%) towards our goal of $5,500. 

You still can double your impact with our Facebook Fundraiser today. Click this link and make your end-of-year tax-deductible gift. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar: Your $10 donation becomes $20. Your $25 donation becomes $50. Your $100 donation becomes $200.

Your generosity puts books in our library, computers in our lab, and sewing machines in our classroom. 
 ​
Our headline today "Did you take secondary school shop classes?" is the question relating to why Uniting Distant Stars is providing vocational training programs. Depending on your generation, you may have benefited by shop classes in junior and senior high schools. You were given hands-on skills on how to use woodworking machines like lathes and saws. Or you may have had an opportunity to work on machinery gaining mechanical skills. During the first of half of the 1980s, I had wood shop classes in 7th and 8th grades and power mechanics class in my senior year. These skills carried out through my adult life when I had to install a new faucet in my kitchen and bathroom sinks or do minor repairs around my home. Also, I am one of countless students who learn best with our hands. We loved to hear how these classes benefited you so we can share with our young students in Liberia.

In talking with one of our donors Branko Tambah, who grew up in Liberia. He had the opportunity to attend the only vocational training high school--​Booker Washington Institute (BWI)--in Kakata (city in Margibi County). He shared that no other junior or high schools in Liberia provided shop classes for their students. Through his courses at BWI, he learned how to do many things with his hands to where he is now pursuing his own business construction in Minnesota. ​

Booker Washington Institute is named after "Educator Booker T. Washington was one of the foremost African-American leaders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, founding the Tuskegee Normal and Industril Institute, now known as Tuskegee University (citation). Photo taken by Heather during 2011 mission trip.
​Our co-founder and country director, Kelvin Fomba, in Liberia recently shared how the trades make our lives better. He said, "Who built the roads you drive on? who built the buildings you sleep, work and worship in?, who keeps your car working?, who maintains the plumbing and electricity?" The answer is the same...someone who was trained in a vocational trade.

Uniting Distant Stars will start in January our first vocational training courses at our new center. As you will recall, our youth put their hands together this year to get this new center open. As you see in the photo collage below, they cleaned it, they painted the interior and exterior walls, and they helped with some of the renovations, and cleaned it again after the work was done. They wanted to show you how important our programs mean to them. They love having the opportunity to learn valuable skills to either seek employment or entrepreneurship. 
Your commitment inspired our youth to help prepare our new training center for opening in 2016.
​Our year-end campaign is increasing the materials to provide for this training in January. Please help young Liberians learn a trade by donating online and match your gift through our Facebook Fundraising (click here) or send a check payable to Uniting Distant Stars at:

Uniting Distant Stars
4010 Lawndale LN N
Plymouth, MN 55446

Thank you whole-heartily for being a valuable Star Supporter!!!