Life is at its best, when you can do something that you love! Well, this was made possible by my dear friend Elijah Wreh, who had invited me to be the guest speaker for the Ebenezer Community Church (ECC) Youth Group today (February 26, 2012). Back in January, Elijah texted me that he was recently appointed as the new Youth Director and stated that he would be seeking my help. I was eager to learn more about what he needed, because it is my passion to work with youth development.

Before I go into some of the highlights of today’s presentation, I want to share more about the leadership of this group. I can say without hesitation that the young people in this group are very fortunate to have not only Elijah as a leader, but also his wife Gradieh. I have known this vibrant couple for about two years. They are both  intelligent, hardworking and constantly seeking ways to make this a better world. These two inspire me greatly that I do what I can to support them. For nearly two years, Elijah and I have been working periodically on a project that he is developing that would help support the educational efforts of young people in Liberia. Gradieh is a co-owner of Hairitage Creations Beauty Salon in Brooklyn Park and I have been a her client for 18 months. 

Now to the highlights! It was an honor to present to some very smart and spirited Liberian youth from ages 13 to 25 about my experience and research of their home nation. Everyone of them was eager to “test their knowledge” on Liberia’s geography and history at the start of the presentation as a way to ‘break the ice’. While they were quick to answer most questions, they did have two challenging ones.

The first one was “How was Liberia created?” and it did stump the group as they made several attempts to answer it. Their answers were more about who founded Liberia and not the one act that made it possible. So, I finally gave them the answer and explained that Liberia was created when U.S. Congress passed the Anti-Slave Trade Act in 1819 that gave the American Colonization Society (ACS) the money–$100,000–to establish a colony in West Africa. Prior to the passing of this act, ACS was unable to raise the money needed for their purpose.

The other question was “Why did Liberia declare Independence?” which this was implying to an economic reason. After receiving some good efforts from other participants, this one was answered correctly by one of the young men. He mentioned how Liberia had trade relationships with other nations and they would not pay customs for the goods they were trading as long as it was not a sovereign nation. Until their independence in 1847, Liberia was under the auspice rule of the ACS and the trading nations did not consider this organization as a nation. Plus at this time, the ACS was extremely broke and were ready to pass on the responsibility of governance to this fledgling new nation.

The rest of the presentation focused on the present situations such as limited electricity, no running water, high unemployment and poverty rates, and other factors that still challenge this war-torn nation’s recovery efforts. Then we discussed the future opportunities such as mobile technology, alternative energy sources, agriculture (i.e. supporting local farmers) and human resources development.

I wanted to engage these young participates on what are some of the possibilities of making a difference back home. Though many were born in Liberia, some had moved away when they were younger and were now accustomed to U.S. living. It appeared that most really hadn’t thought about returning to Liberia or how they could be a catalyst for change.

We ended the presentation with an energized question and answer session. One of the young men was eager to know what programs were available to volunteer with that were helping Liberia. This was a great question and I shared with him that there were several organizations in the Twin Cities focused on projects in Liberia. They were hungry to know more and yet our time was running short. We closed with Elijah saying a final prayer and everyone gave me a resounding thank you!

Later in the day, Gradieh called me and provided some great feedback about today’s interactions. The young people were still talking about my presentation after I was gone and how much they learned surprisingly from a “white women.” She also shared that they will be looking for organizations that their groups members can sign-up to be volunteers. This put a smile on my face, because now these young people felt empowered to do something good!

This post will end with the following pictures of my great day with some amazing young people:

Elijah Wreh, Ebenezer Community Church Youth Director
This is my audience of about 25 to 30 young people.
Close up of some of young people sitting at the back.
All eyes are turned at the young lady in the second row as she answers one of the geography questions.
Many hands were raised as the history questions were being asked.

This group was quite eager to answers questions and share their knowledge.

Giving some hints about the first challenge question “How was Liberia created?
That smile I am wearing indicates that this group was great to work with!
The young man in the middle is answering one of the questions.
The young lady in the second row wearing the white dress with the black jacket, demonstrated her knowledge by naming all the Liberian Presidents.
One of three group pictures at the end of the presentation. Gradieh Wreh is in the black jacket and red skirt.

Group photo number two.

Group photo three with some position changes!