Our most anticipated event–2nd Annual Student Celebration–was finally held on February 7, 2014, at Russ Wood School in Congo Town, Liberia. This fun-filled event was originally planned for December on the last day of school before their holiday break. However, we had to deal with a late shipment of supplies that were on a transatlantic cargo container that left in September 2013.

Though this was an initial disappointment for the Russ Wood students and staff along with UDS donors and volunteers, the wait was well worth it! This post features the stories and pictures of the day-long celebration where the students played football (i.e. soccer) and kickball, sang and danced, enjoyed good food and treats, and received their long awaited gifts.

Future players of the Lonestar Football Team. This year we sent six footballs and six kick balls along with two air pumps. The students were divided into various teams and started their day playing these two favorite games. The students expressed their gratitude for the footballs and kick balls, but stressed their wish for jerseys. We will have to figure out how to fulfill their wish.

Students who participated in the games.
Liberia’s Got Talent. When the students have an opportunity to show off their talents, they go all out on being shining stars. Some of this year’s talent was young as four years old, who were able to get up on stage to perform in front of their fellow students, teachers and visiting guests. Each soloist and group were honored by their audience with praise and applause. Their joyful noise resonated outside the walls and attracted some of the neighboring children who were not attending school that day. This is just one example of how the power of music can bring people together.

Here are some of the young performers.
On the left if the young performer (see video below) and on the right is the school’s drummer.
Here are some of the older students performing.
Video of a four-year-old girl name Josephine singing the national anthem “All Hail Liberia”

Liberia’s Rising Leaders. The MC of the day was Ishmael, who is in the sixth grade. This young man enjoys getting up in front of an audience and usually entertains them with his own parables and songs. Today, he was able to share the spotlight with many of his fellow students who got up to perform. Ishmael is very creative person along with being an active leader in his school. Based on his high performance level, he was added to our scholarship program starting this school.

Ishmael making acting as the event’s MC.
During this year’s program, one 5th grade student surprised her entire school. Young Rita took her own initiative to write a Thank You letter to Kelvin Fomba, Uniting Distant Stars Co-Founder and Country Director. She amazed the audience as she got up and read the letter out loud. Rita’s effort showed her determination and leadership abilities, which is why she was awarded a scholarship starting next school year.

Parents Involvement Increased. It was nice to see more parents attending this year’s program. Most of the presentations were focused on the importance of education and how it can shape the future of young Liberians. The parents present were in agreement and offered their support in pray to ensure that the students can continue with their education through college. Somehow this theme echoed outside the school, because it brought in a parent to register their child after the program ended.

Photos: left is some of the parents in attendance, center is Kelvin Fomba making is address on the importance of education, right is a parent joining in on the singing and dancing with the children.
The Educators. This community school is blessed with many dedicated teachers and staff. Their job is not easy since they are dealing with over 250 students in multiple grades and teaching in one room. However, they do their best to manage these constraints and find creative ways to provide a conducive learning environment.

Photos: Left is one of Russ Wood’s dedicated, caring teachers, center are the teachers seated on the stage, and right is Principal Kangar addressing to the audience.
Good eats! A big part of the celebration is providing students with a hot meal along with some Kool-aid and popcorn. We are very grateful to Russ Wood and Uniting Distant Stars volunteers who helped prepare a meal that served over 300 people without the convenience of a modern kitchen. Though we had some extra guests such as the neighborhood children who joined in the activities, there was enough food for all in attendance.

Volunteers toiled over a hot coal pot to make the delicious meal enjoyed by ll.
Volunteers individually package the popcorn and add a few pieces of candy.
Students patiently waiting in line for the Kool-aid and food.
The gifts have arrived! This is the third year that the students have receive a gift packet from Uniting Distant Stars. However, this was the first year that they had to wait longer than expected. When Kelvin visited the school in January in preparation of this program, he was overwhelmed by the students greetings as they said, “My Christmas and News Years is on you!” So it was with great joy that we could give each student a gift pack filled with school supplies, crayons and activity coloring book, comb, toothbrush, etc.

Photos: Left is gift packets being unloaded from the vehicle, and right are the packets being stored in the office until distribution.
Students in line to receive their gifts.
Photos: Left is students showing off their gifts, and right is students as they started to sing with joy for what they had received.
This special day was made possible by the many sponsors from Maryland, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. We need to give a special Thanks to the amazing Distant Stars in Oklahoma who provided majority of the support for this year’s school drive campaign! We are so grateful that this day could be shared with all our supporters.

Russ Wood Students give a heartfelt Thanks for their day of celebration!