Sunday, August 18, 2013

Campaign: Youth Leadership Workshop on Innovative Creative and Innovative Thinking - Liberia

Globally, civil wars have stripped many young people in developing nations of their childhood and sometimes their humanity.  Conditioned by what they witnessed or by direct involvement as conscripted child soldiers, many still resort to violence as the preferred means of resolving conflict and solving problems.  During peacetime, they are easily persuaded to participate in riots and public protests over the lack of jobs or food or education.  A prime example is Liberia, a tiny West African nation that sustained total destruction of its infrastructure while civil war raged from 1989 to 2003.  The most devastating losses however were the hopes and dreams of its youth.  Today some young Liberians are graduating from college with little chance of finding conventional employment.  The national rate of underemployment/unemployment hovers around 85%.   Many pessimistically believe that their true destiny is to be a vendor in the already saturated open-air markets.   Such a narrow view can only be broadened by introducing creative thinking
Our crowdfunding project is a revolutionary, invitation-only international youth leadership workshop, to be held on September 13 and 14, 2013 in ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Monrovia, Liberia. It will:
  • Engage and inspire young Liberians to develop their own grassroots innovative projects that address problems they would like to solve.
  • Provide a collaborative and supportive space where our young participants can re-light their flame of boundless imagination and creative spirit that was snuffed out by war and suppressive institutions.
  • Guide our young participants to channel their energy into creative projects that can effect positive change in their lives and the people around them.
  • Assist Liberia’s future leaders, innovators, and educators to re-discover their potential and how they can make a difference.

 ECC Youth Group giving a message of hope for their peers in Liberia
The workshop will begin with stories of real-life role models—young African boys and girls who broke free of the chains of hopelessness and almost miraculously created innovative projects with little or no resources. These amazing youth include:
  • William Kawkwamba of Malawi, whose story is told in his book “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.” In 2001, when only 14 years old, he built his first windmill to generate electricity for his house, using his inborn talent, an English-language text book, and items from a local scrap yard.  He did this despite a deadly famine that forced him to drop out of school. His second, more powerful windmill was built to help irrigate his family’s maize crops.
  • Duro-AinaAdebola, Akindele Abiola and Faleke Oluwatoyin, and Bello Eniola, four teenage girls from Nigeria who developed a process using human urine—an abundant and renewable resource—to power a generator with an initial investment of $64. They also found a way to eliminate the smell of “pee” to alleviate the concerns of working with a form of human waste.
  • KelvinDoe of Sierra Leone, who pulled electronic parts from trash dumps to make his own battery and generator.  He later created his own radio station and took the name “DJ Focus” due to his belief that focus is necessary to develop projects. He was invited to MIT as one of the youngest visiting inventors after his story was shared on YouTube.
Day 1: Our participants will analyze and discuss each of these inspirational stories, reviewing the resources used and how projects were implemented. They will also hear from Liberian social innovators like Alfred Sirleaf, who have successfully launched grassroots initiatives. After exposure to these examples of innovation, they will be encouraged to note down in sketches or words what resources they can access for developing their own projects and addressing the problems they hope to solve.
Day 2: UDS will provide an open lab environment where our budding inventors can incubate their ideas, to be birthed into viable projects. They will be encouraged to work independently and in groups to conduct experiments using the resources they gathered to test their ideas. Additionally, they will hear about opportunities to develop and grow their project from our Liberian partners:
  • Accountability Lab will introduce their Accountapreneurship Funds which provides small grants to “harness the creativity of citizens to solve problems in their own communities.”
  • The Business Start-up Center at the University of Liberia’s main campus, will share their services that “stimulate and develop young and ambitious entrepreneurs through Training, business plan competitions and facilitates access to finance as a way of promoting SME development and growth in Liberia.”
Also, UDS will award seed money for the top two collaborative project ideas developed by our young visionaries, who are ready to address the social or economic problems within their communities. The best two projects will be determined by the votes of all participants.
This is a $2,500 project that will provide (click here to see concept proposal):
  • Food and transportation for all participants 
  • A one-night stay for the 8 attendees from the rural areas
  • Workshop materials
  • Two $200 seed grants
  • Other logistical costs
Your pledge in supporting this project will aid and encourage our emerging youth leaders to explore, develop and implement their creative and innovative ideas that will help heal and rebuild their nation. No amount is too small to be part of the journey that these young people will take in reclaiming the gift they were born with and to give them the chance to become contributing members of their communities and the world.
Listen to what Josh Tabla of the ECC Youth Group has to say about supporting this workshop.
We value your involvement in this project and want to appreciate your pledge as follows:
  • Pledge $5 or more: the Liberian youth will be forever gratefu
  • Pledge $20 or more:
o   The Liberian youth will joyfully sing your name out loud;
o   Your name will be listed on the Uniting Distant Stars sponsorship page for this workshop as a supporter.
  • Pledge $50 or more:
o   The youth of Liberia will repeatedly chant your name while dancing in jubilation
o   Your name will be listed on the Uniting Distant Stars sponsorship page for this workshop as a supporter and included on the 2014 annual report.
  • Pledge $100 of more:
o   The Liberian youth will consider you as their global auntie and uncle
o   Your name will be listed on the Uniting Distant Stars sponsorship page for this workshop, included on the 2014 annual report, and added to the "banner of hope" that will be displayed during this two-day workshop.

Please pledge by check or PayPal by following the instructions below.

Checks: Make out the checks to ECC and put UDS Workshop on the memo Line and send to
Uniting Distant Stars
c/o Heather Cannon-Winkelman
4010 Lawndale LN N
Plymouth, MN 55466

*PayPal: Go to and scroll down to Contact Us box on the left hand side. Select Uniting Distant Stars in the Donation Category dropdown menu and then click the PayPal button (see image below).
*PayPal charges a 2.2% plus $0.30 per transaction fee that will be deducted from your donation.
 Your generous pledge is tax deductible through our fiscal sponsor Ebenezer Community Church in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

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