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

Liberia - Youth Empowerment Workshop

The Divine Town Community in Congo Town invited Uniting Distant Stars (UDS) to hold a Youth Empowerment Workshop on Saturday, April 23, 2016. This day-long event implanted ideas and concepts on how youth can empower themselves and overcome obstacles in their post-Ebola society that increased the number of student dropouts. Additionally, it provided a space for youth to unite and discover ways to take an active role in their community through sports, civic, social and cultural activities. 

Divine Town Community young Liberians attending Youth Empowerment Workshop
This collaborative undertaking involved many key contributors: 1) Assembly of God Mission (AGM) School Campus in Divine Town Community provided the venue. 2) Reverend Samuel Enders, Founder of African Dream Academy, supplied the projector and sound system. 3) UDS donated $290 for refreshments prepared;and served by our youth volunteers. 4) Six community leaders spoke on different topics addressing important issues as follows:
  1. Mr. Michael A Kharim, PTA Coordinator/Ministry of Education. Topic: Youth and the Community.
  2. Evangelist Godfred Solomon. Topic: The Positive (doctor prescribed) and Negative (addiction) Effect of Drugs.
  3. Pastor Isaac Ndama. Topic: Reasons Why Youth Misbehave.
  4. Brother Trokon Karsor, Acting Youth Leader, Divine Town Community. Topic: Demarcation and Problems of the Community.
  5. Kelvin S. Fomba, UDS Co-Founder and Country Director. Topic: Boldness in Public Speaking.
  6. Brother Janjay Gabriel, Acting UDS Youth President. Topic: Developing Leadership Skills.
Workshop participants listens to one of the presenters.
The workshop provided morning and afternoon sessions with a lunch break in between for 128 participants. Each presenter encouraged young ladies and gentleman to ask questions and offer suggestions during their session. About 70 to 75% of the youth commented that this was their first workshop they had ever attended. The majority of the youth found the information to be relative to their present situation and impressed by the content delivered by each presenter. 

UDS volunteers providing soft drinks and sandwiches they prepared earlier in the day.
Midway through the workshop, Reverend Enders was asked to share his testimony on how he dealt with adversity as a young person. Like so many in the audience, he was forced to drop out of school due to financial reasons as a young boy. When he could finally re-enroll he was much older and had to deal younger students ridiculing him for being in their classroom. Their demeaning remarks did not discourage him from moving forward with his education and he prayed that one day he could go to the United States. Fortunately, that prayer was answered after he graduated from high school. During his time in the U.S., he made another vow to return to Liberia and serve his people. He honored his commitment and came home to start a free school for children in 2012 called African Dream Academy. In 2016, he opened a clinic to provide free healthcare for children up to age 6. Reverend Enders story illustrated how one's dreams are reachable with determination and effort. 

Reverend Enders sharing his story of overcoming adversity. 
Next up was Kelvin Doe's TED Talk about how he used discarded electrical devices and repurposed them as batteries, music sets and eventually his own radio station. This young Sierra Leonean received international attention for his inventions and innovations through a YouTube video and became the youngest visiting practitioner to The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Kelvin's inspiring story left our youth awestruck because he demonstrated how he could make his vision into a reality through precise focus and perseverance. 



The youth's reaction to Kelvin Doe's video was reminiscent to our inaugural Youth Leadership Workshop on Creative and Innovative Thinking in 2013. During this two-day event, we played Kelvin's video along with other TED Talks of young Africans to highlight their innovative endeavors of using "spare" parts to solve problems. Young Liberians can easily relate to these individuals because they are facing the same challenges of living in poverty and uncertainty of their future. Furthermore, they also saw how their resourcefulness brought positive changes into their life.

As the workshop concluded they asked Kelvin Fomba (UDS Country Director) some probing questions like, "Why have we not heard of UDS?" and "How can they get involved?" Kelvin explained why our presence is not widely known in Liberia because we are a small organization trying to grow gradually to best accommodate the education and skill training needs of youth. He followed with how they can best utilize our current programs such as auto mechanics and driver's training, afternoon study classes, read books in our library, and sign-up for future computer classes. The youth responded with excitement and eagerness to be part of UDS. 


Kelvin Fomba, UDS Country Director, answering the participants questions.
Overall the workshop was a success and helped us learn something about ourselves. While UDS might not be a household name to everyone yet, the Divine Town Community Leadership recognized our efforts in serving young Liberians. The community leaders are grateful for our leadership in providing our youth with resources to improve their education and expand their knowledge. They equally value our partnership in addressing concerns with the growing number out-of-school youth by offering training classes to develop their marketable skills and increase their chances of being contributing members of society. 

Youth of ages attended this one-day workshop.
In closing this post, we are grateful for the efforts of committed individuals who helped organize this workshop to unite youth and open their minds to their own potential. UDS gives special recognition and appreciation to Reverend Samuel Enders, Divine Town Community Leaders, Assembly of God Mission (AGM) School, Mr. Michael A Kharim, Evangelist Godfred Solomon, Pastor Isaac Ndama, Brother Trokon Karsor, Brother Janjay Gabriel, and all our volunteers who made this workshop possible and successful. Thank you!

Outside view of Assembly of God Mission (AGM) School

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Computer Training for Liberian Youth

The computer may be an integral part of homes, schools, and companies in developed nations but for Africans, it is a distant dream. This could be one of the reasons why young Africans are incapable of competing in the global market. For those aspiring to learn computer technology, they need to enroll and pay tuition at computer training centers separate from their schools.  When you add in the current economic and social barriers, it makes this training inaccessible when almost fifty percent of the African population live from hand to mouth.

Traditional schools and colleges in African nations have facilities for basic computer training, but tragically these can be outdated and unable to prepare graduates for competitive positions. Furthermore in Liberia, nearly 50% of the population is under the age of 15 when it is the right time for them to learn this technology.


Ironically in this information age, many graduates have never used a computer. Their inexperience drastically narrows job opportunities both at home and internationally. Technology is the mainstay in private and public sector companies, and jobs paying decent salaries demand computer proficiency. Currently, job applications are accepted as electronic forms only, thus depriving young Liberians of applying for entry-level vacancies due to insufficient computer knowledge as well as access to email and Internet facilities.

This is why Uniting Distant Stars (UDS) opened a Computer Lab in order to provide young Liberians with free training to become computer literate. UDS created an avenue for youth to develop basic computing skills and learn standard software applications. Students who complete this course will be better equipped to find and secure jobs in the future.

Written by Rodney Johnson, UDS Computer Trainer and Kelvin Fomba, UDS Co-Founder and Country Director

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Introducing UDS Learning Center 2.0

Liberian children and youth witnessed their wishes being answered in the past two weeks. Uniting Distant Stars (UDS) raised $2,042 (shy of our $2,500 goal) from our generous Star Supporters to upgrade our Learning Center in Congo Town, Liberia. Our Liberian team led by Kelvin Fomba, Co-Founder and Country Director, went the extra mile to check off the items on the students' original wish list. In the last eight days another $360 was donated from new and existing benevolent supporters. Their gracious generosity will buy other items on the list such as fans to keep the center comfortable, additional books for the library, chalk board for instructors, and other crucial needs for its operations.

Like any good upgrade you need to have a release party. On Friday March 25, UDS Learning Center hosted two programs. The first one was organized by the UDS Youth Group. Since it was Good Friday, they focused on Easter. During this three-hour program they talked about the meaning of Easter, played some games, and also had a Bible quizzing contest between the boys and girls. They had two rounds with each having 20 questions and one question was worth 10 points. The boys and girls tied in the first round. However, in the second round the boys out scored the girls 120 to 80. Our Youth Group's program was a resounding success and everyone had a great time.

Youth Groups Program
UDS Youth Bible Quizzing Contest
The second program followed soon after to introduce our youth to the new UDS Computer Lab. They have eagerly waited for this lab ever since we started the upgrade campaign last year. The original plan was to have four computers, but Kelvin reached out to his connections and helped secure six used PCs--four laptops and two desktops. He is still negotiating on adding one or two more computers. Our team also built computer desks and bought a stabilizer to protect the PCs from power surges and outages, because electricity is neither consistent nor reliable. Another stabilizer will be purchased with the recent donations to ensure the electrical load is distributed evenly.

UDS Computer Lab
Our team expected 25 to 30 young Liberians to attend this three-hour program, but it attracted over 50. Computer training is in high demand with Liberian youth, but not everyone can afford to take courses at vocational training schools. This is why our team went all out in preparing the lab and its introduction program.

Kelvin Fomba introducing the computer lab.
Kelvin opened with how the computer lab will operate and its corresponding rules. Next part was to determine who would be the first recipients of this training course. Kelvin and his volunteers devised a raffle drawing to select trainees since there was a ratio of approximately four students to one computer. Our youth anxiously waited to hear who were the lucky winners as each name was pulled. Soon twelve students were chosen to attend one of two classes, because we wanted to accommodate as many as possible.

Liberian Youth learning about the new UDS Computer Lab
The students will learn about computer hardware, basic software and internet functions in this month-long course. Other students wanting to attend this course signed up on a list and will participate in computer theory classes as they wait their turn for the practical training. The training materials and curriculum for this program are being developed by our volunteers in Liberia and Minnesota.

UDS Youth learning about computers.
First Students of the UDS Computer Lab
Another part of the upgrade included expanding our library collection. On Monday March 14, two of our youth volunteers, Patrick and Princess, purchased 52 books from the list of requested titles and topics from our students. These books are required by their schools as part of the curriculum. Though our volunteers bought 80% of the books requested by the students, their list continues to grow. Eventually, we like to purchase additional copies of the main books to allow more than one student to use for their homework assignments.

Additional books purchased for the library
UDS Youth appreciating the new books.
The following day these new books were included in our studying classes. There are two objectives with these study classes as follows:
  1. Students are asked a series of questions about the subject(s) and topic(s) for their assignments and are then shown how to find books in the library and search for the information within the book.
  2. Students are given detailed instruction from one of volunteer teachers on a particular subject area that they are working on at school to help bolster their understanding and ability to apply it in their homework and exams.
Students receiving a tour of  the UDS library. 
UDS first opened our learning center over a year ago with a small library and providing skills training courses such as auto mechanics, drivers ed and Backpacks for Peace. In September 2015, it had its first upgrade with building extra shelves for additional books donated from the U.S. and more tables for students to complete their homework. This second upgrade was centered on the requests of our students to best meet their educational needs since their schools are not able to provide the required books and textbooks or computer labs. Through our growing community of bighearted supporters, our students are extremely grateful and overjoyed with seeing their wishes being fulfilled.

All of us at Uniting Distant Stars extend our heartfelt Thanks and Appreciation to our most generous Star Supporters!

Please read these additional posts about our learning center.



  • Enjoy a Tour of the UDS Learning Center in Liberia
  • Liberia: Read How UDS Learning Center Benefits Deborah