Our youth-made backpacks are now being worn by young students in Liberia

It has been said many times “good things come for those who wait.” This clearly was evident at the Russ Wood Christian Academy’s Back to School Program held on Sunday, October 11, 2015. After a year of challenges and disruptions, the students of Russ Wood finally received their school supplies shipped in 2014 that filled the backpacks made by our youth during the 4th quarter of 2014.

Read our blog post “Miracles Do Happen” about our 2014 shipment of school supplies.

In preparation for this much anticipated day, our team in Liberia faced yet another challenge. Russ Wood increased their enrollment from 250 to 300 students. UDS fearless leader Kelvin Fomba had to adjust the supplies to accommodate the extra 50 students and use plastic bags to package them since we had only 250 backpacks. Saturday, October 10, he organized the
UDS volunteers to sort the supplies and fill the backpacks/bags for each student. This was a day-long endeavor.

UDS Volunteers sorting supplies for 300 students at Russ Wood Christian Academy.
Three UDS volunteers filling our youth-made backpacks with school supplies.
Note: We plan to restart production of the backpacks once the rainy season subsides.

The rest of this post is a detailed report (lightly edited) from our young correspondent and photographer Rodney Johnson, who shares the highlights of the day.

Yesterday was another wonderful and exciting day at the back to school program for Russ Wood Christian Academy in Torpkah Camp, Old Road Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia. The program started at around 1:30 pm GMT. The program began with Russ Wood students giving contributions by singing songs, reading some favorite bible verses and poems. This was followed by the Uniting Distant Stars Youth Group, who gave their contribution by doing a drama entitled “Say No to Bribes in School.”

UDS Youth Group performing their play “Say No to Bribes in School.”

It was indeed an educative play with lots of laughter, and everyone being fully entertained by our youth group’s performance. The play was about some students who don’t pay attention in school when the teacher is
giving lessons. These students can be busy with their phones, playing cards, and chatting with each other while class is in session. Even when the teacher is conducting an examination, these students sit doing
nothing at all. When the examination time is over, they only write their names and the subject title on their answer sheets before presenting it to the teacher. This results in these students, who did not participate in class or complete their studies at home, to meet the teacher in private and pay some amount of money for their grades.

In this particular performance, there was a teacher, who had a habit of receiving bribes from some students in return for grades. Other students were not happy with this teacher for always taking bribes from students. So they decided to take the matter to the principal of the school. The principal asked for the teacher’s name and then sent for him to come to his office. The principal asked the teacher if what the students were saying was true or not. The teacher denied it and said he did not know what the students were talking about. However, the principal continued to receive numerous complaints from the students about the same teacher, so he the prepared a letter of dismissal.

The principal again called the teacher to his office and presented the letter to him. The principal stressed he never wanted to see him anymore, because his school is well known and has a good reputation. Therefore, he will not allow one teacher to tarnish his school’s image. This skit also encouraged other students to not act like the students in the play, who bribe teachers for grades. Also, they admonished teachers who are in the habit of receiving bribes from students for grades and asked them to please stop what they are doing. They added that this is not helping our students, because it will not bring about the positive changes we want from Liberia’s youth to make in their respective homes, surrounding environment, and the nation as a whole. Everyone was very pleased with this play and gave the UDS youth a round of applause.

Russ Wood’s MC for Russ Wood’s Back to School Program.

The MC of the program on behalf of the principal, teachers, parents and guardians extended their thanks and appreciation to the Uniting Distant Stars youth, staff and executives for their hard work in forming this youth group. He stated this is what the nation needs today in fostering unity among students and also encouraging them to be creative. The MC introduced the UDS co-founder and country director, Kelvin Fomba, who was the guest speaker of the program to give his remarks. Kelvin started by thanking the youth for their wonderful performance and how they make him fill proud of having them as young UDS volunteers willing to bring about the change that is needed in the nation.  Kelvin also encouraged these young people to continue with their good work, because it will make them to become brighter stars in the future.

Kelvin sharing the story in now the backpacks were made by our youth.

He continued by thanking the teachers, who are spending countess hours, helping these young children to become the nation’s builders of tomorrow. He repeated the message from the youth group’s performance to any teacher who might take bribes from students to relinquish this habit. He stressed this behavior will lead students to steal or into other bad activities to obtain money to pay for grades.

Kelvin next addressed the parents and guardians by thanking them for their wonderful and brilliant children. He said that if we are to succeed in building up these youth to become prosperous in life, we need their support. He then stated in order for these young children to achieve their goals, the parents and guardians need to play their part. This includes encouraging their children to value education more than silver or gold, because when you educate a child you educate a whole nation. He pleaded with them to stop sending their children to sell market goods
on the street when school is in session or during study time. He also asked if they could put their children’s homework time before doing house work.

Parents and guardians sitting with their children during the program.
Kelvin ended his remarks by informing the parents and guardians of the opening of the UDS Learning Center and encouraged them to send their children for study classes organized by the UDS youth. The youth are voluntarily helping to teach young children on how to use these materials donated by our UDS counterparts in the USA. After Mr. Fomba’s remarks, the backpacks and some other school materials was presented to the students of Russ Wood Christian Academy by the UDS team. Everyone was happy and the parents admired the handy work of our youth when they saw the backpacks. Other people requested to get backpacks for their own children, who were not attending Russ Wood.

This little girl received her red backpack filled with school supplies.
This boy’s smiles shows his delight in receiving his backpack filled with school supplies.

This boy is holding his new backpack filled with school supplies with care.

This little girl is delighted to receive her backpack filled with school supplies.

The program ended with Russ Wood students, UDS volunteers and UDS youth group taking general group photos.

Russ Wood Students’ holding holding up their gifts.
Here is a wider view of Russ Wood’s Students showing their gifts.
Some Russ Wood Students wearing their backpacks as they go home.
Two girls standing outside Russ Wood school at the close of the program.
Thanks to everyone with Uniting Distant Stars in Liberia and the United States of America in making sure this program was a huge success. Let’s not forget our sponsors and donors all around the world for their support. If it hadn’t been for all of you, we couldn’t have reached this far.

Our fabulous UDS Youth Group (light blue shirts) and Volunteers (dark blue shirts) celebrating a successful day.
Kelvin Fomba squatting in the middle of his hard working and dedicated team.

Thanks again Rodney for your fabulous report! If you like to see more photos of all three back to school programs for City of Joy, Rogma International, and Russ Wood Christian Academy, please view our Facebook Album (click here).

As you can see, our youth in Liberia are taking an active role with our programs. They receive their encouragement and inspiration from you as one of our Star Supporters! Please feel honored in what you have helped accomplish in Liberia with our youth. Thank you for your generosity and kindness!

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