About UDS

Mission Statement:

Uniting Distant Stars™, Inc. with operations in Africa, links future leaders and global innovators to educational resources and vocational training to influence positive changes in the world.

Vision Statement:

Uniting Distant Stars™, Inc. equips youth with the knowledge and skills to realize their potential and become positive change makers.

History:

Uniting Distant Stars™, Inc. is co-founded by Kelvin Fomba (Liberian) and Heather Cannon (U.S. Citizen). Since 2011, we have developed our shared vision to raise the aspirations of Liberian youth and guide them towards success. We provide scholarships, school supplies, after school study classes through our learning center, youth exchanges via Google Hangout, and vocational training to youth in Liberia.
We promote creative and innovative thinking to inspire our youth to reach for the stars. Through these efforts, more doors for future employment and entrepreneurship will open for Liberia’s young men and women.

UDS Volunteer Staff:

Uniting Distant Stars™, Inc. is currently an all-volunteer organization with teams in the U.S. and Liberia.

Heather serves as the U.S. co-founder and executive director of Uniting Distant Stars. She was born and lived most of her life in Minnesota. She has been traveling to Liberia since 1998 and lived there for two one-year periods between 2007 and 2010. She volunteered with local grassroots organizations in Liberia focused on children, gender-based violence and climate change. She independently advocated for Liberian children, whose adoptions failed to U.S. families. Heather has served on international non-profit boards based in Minnesota with a focus on education, women & girl’s rights, and global collaboration. She has been recognized for her volunteer work in Minnesota and Liberia. In 2013, she was named outstanding volunteer from the Minnesota International NGO Network (MINN) for leading the team that hosted the first all-day conference for international development practitioners. In 2015, she was honored as part of the Minnesota Lynx Inspiring Women Series for her dedication to helping children and youth in Liberia. Heather received her individualized degree in legal and cultural studies at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul. She works full-time as a tax accountant at U.S. Bank Global Corporate Trust division.

Kelvin serves as Liberia’s co-founder and country director of Uniting Distant Stars. He is native-born Liberia from Foya, Lofa County. While he has spent most of his life in Liberia, he has lived in Sierra Leone and Guinea. He is a self-taught master auto mechanic working with all-types of machinery. He has several years of experience as a professional commercial truck driver. He has been an instructor in both fields either in the classroom or on-the-job training. He is the co-designer of the UDS Backpacks for Peace project. He is an advocate for youth development and education, and provides free training for youth interested in learning automotive related trades. He was recognized in 2015 for his service in the community by Faith Evangelical Free Church in Monrovia, Liberia. He currently is the senior instructor in the auto mechanics department and dean of student affairs at NETLIB Vocational Training Institute. He is pursuing a degree in geology at University of Liberia.

Anna serves as the National Youth Leader of Uniting Distant Stars and is a sophomore in high school. She loves helping and spreading light wherever she can, and participating in UDS has been a wonderful opportunity to do just that. Anna brought her creative talents to UDS by designing and producing our PSA video and helping refresh our website. She also helps with fundraising campaigns and social media posts. Her interests include art, dance, self-development, and building up those around her. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” ~Mahatma Ghandi.

Board Officers:

Diane grew up in Minnesota, but has also lived on both the West and East coasts. She received a bachelor’s degree in political science from American University in Washington D.C. and a master’s of public administration from Hamline University in Minnesota. Professionally, Diane has had stints in both public and nonprofit in the areas of community engagement, development/fundraising, communications, marketing and administration. She has traveled extensively to learn about other cultures and made a special trip to Tanzania and Russia to use her teaching skills. She was in the Peace Corps working as a municipal management advisor in Chile where she created a strategic plan for the Chilean Association of Municipalities. Social justice is what drives her when working side-by-side with culturally diverse populations. Diane joined the board in 2014 to follow her life-long interest in global youth development. She has served as board chair since 2015.

Adam is an international non-profit professional with a background in politics and international relations. A native to Minnesota, Adam earned his BA in political science and international studies with an emphasis on multicultural politics and refugee issues from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He has been a member and supporter of multiple organizations in the Twin Cities, including the Minnesota International NGO Network (MINN) where he has worked on several engagement projects. He also taught in South Korea as an English teacher at a private school in 2014/2015. He lives in Minneapolis, enjoys photography, and is an avid traveler who has visited 17 countries. Adam joined the board in 2016 after initially becoming involved with Uniting Distant Stars as a member of the fundraising committee. He looks forward to helping expand educational opportunities to young people who want to learn. He was installed at the board treasurer in April 2016.

Cynthia is a Project Management Professional (PMP – PMI). She has worked with private and non-profit organizations on several projects. Born and raised in Ghana, at age of 6 she left Ghana to go and live with her parents in Perth, Western Australia. She came back to Ghana and continued her secondary and college education. In 1999 she arrived in the US, continued her University education and obtained her Master’s degree in Project Management at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. She has volunteered for several non-profit organizations and is the current Organizing Secretary for her high school alma mater, which sponsors under privileged girls who excel academically to attend high school. She is married with 4 children and lives with her family in Illinois. Cynthia joined the board in 2013 as founding member, because she has strong desire to see youth in Africa obtain quality education. She was installed as board treasurer in January 2016.

Board Members:

Michael was born and raised in the countryside of Eritrea in the midst of the Eritrean war for independence. When he was in Eritrea, Michael held several positions in both public and private sectors. He also co-founded the Eritrean-American Cultural Institute to serve the Eritrean communities in North America and Canada. He is also a renowned writer, and is a researcher in the East African history and cultures. After coming to the United States in 1998, he earned his BA in Justice and Peace Studies from the University of St. Thomas, and a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute. Michael is fluent in five languages and knowledgeable in Arabic, which he serves as an interpreter and translator for Minnesota Courts. He is married with two children and lives in Hopkins, Minnesota. Michael joined the board in 2013 as a founding member based on his experience and knowledge of international development and growing up in war.

Saah was born in Monrovia, Liberia. As a young man, his passion has always been focused on youth development and empowerment. He has dual Bachelor degrees from the University of Liberia (BBA-Accounting) and the University of Minnesota (BSc.-Business & Marketing). He also has dual graduate degrees from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota (MBA-Finance and MSc.-Project Management). His career has evolved from a classroom teacher to an Accountant, a Banker and Financial Analyst. Saah volunteered as a Software Instructor at the YMCA run Youth Computer Training School in Monrovia with a focus on strategizing training mechanisms and methodology to help empower a lot of former child soldiers and ex-combatants. While in Liberia, Saah also worked as a Project Accountant with the Liberian Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE-a World Bank Project) and several banks including ECO Bank, LBDI and AccessBank Liberia. In the United States his career included working as an Accountant with Walmart, Loan Specialist at Wells Fargo, Compliance Analyst at US Bank and Financial Contract Analyst at CA Technologies. Saah joined the UDS board in 2013 with the passion to positively sensitize youth on issues that affect our one world, and how he can combine his ideas with other team members to meaningfully transform Liberia and Liberians in all works of life. He served as board treasurer from 2013 to 2015.

Miriam was born and raised in Cameroon, and immigrated to the US at the age of 16 with her family. She holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Keller Graduate school of Management, as well as a Master’s in Public Administration from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Miriam currently works as a Project Manager for Prime Therapeutics in Eagan. She has been active member with the Minnesota International NGO Network (MINN) for since 2011. She has held various leadership positions with MINN, including the Education and Summit Committees Chairs and was appointed to the board starting 2015. She brings firsthand knowledge of the importance of getting a good education, as well as a keen understanding of the barriers that the students in Liberia are currently experiencing. Miriam joined the board in 2014 and serves as the chair of the fundraising and partnership committee due to her solid background with building relationships.

Philip has worked in healthcare, insurance, education and financial services industries. He currently works at Voya Financial as a Business Analyst where he translates business ideas into working business applications. Philip did his undergraduate degree at University of Minnesota and graduate degree at Concordia University in St. Paul. In summer 2015 Philip spent 3 weeks in Brazil first attending the Rotary International convention in Sao Paulo then taking part in a Rotary Friendship Exchange with District 4740.  In his leisure, he likes going to the gym, biking, watching sports. Philip is an avid traveler and has visited over 30 countries on 5 continents. He has several years of volunteering experience and serves on the board of ACES, an organization that creates after school programs for middle school kids who are most at risk of falling behind in the Twin Cities area. In addition to ACES he volunteers as a math tutor for adult learners as part of Volunteers In Partnership with Robbinsdale School District and also mentors high school girls on mobile application programming as part of Technovation. Philip is proud to originate from Liberia and has lived in the Twin Cities since 1999. Philip joined the board in October 2015 and is looking forward to serving the youth in home nation.

Florkime was born and raised in Minnesota, but her family hails from Liberia. She is a International Relations professional with profiteroles in reconciliation, dialogue, conflict transformation and peace building. She recently graduated from the University of Baltimore with a masters in negotiation and conflict management and received her bachelors of arts in international relations from Minnesota State University Mankato. She currently works as staff assistant / intern coordinator at United States Senate. She loves traveling and has spent time in several countries including Liberia, where she worked with a women’s organization women on reconciliation and peace projects working with a women’s organization. In her spare time, she dances, blogs, and reads. Florkime acted as the UDS volunteer project coordinator in 2014 and 2015 until she joined the board in October.

Mary has been a leader in the food industry holding positions in product development, food safety, quality assurance and manufacturing operations for companies including The Pillsbury Company, International Dairy Queen, International Multifoods and Target Corporation. In addition, she lived and worked in Thailand on the 4-H Youth Development Program, a project funded by USAID and staffed by the National 4-H Council, where she co-authored and field tested a food and nutrition manual for the Thai Yuwa Kasetkorn (Young Farmer’s) organization. She also led a Minnesota Home Economics Association training team on a project to bring solar box cookers to Jamaica. In addition to the work in Thailand and Jamaica, she has managed business relationships in North America, Caribbean, Asia, Pacific Rim, Middle East, Latin America, and Europe. Her first visit to the African continent was in 2013 when she explored business opportunities and vacationed in Rwanda. She has worked State-side on projects that have benefited a church congregation in Tanzania. Mary joined the board in 2013 as a founding member to continue following her passion for working with other cultures and solving problems at a local level. She is our project manager for the Recipes for Learning Cookbook. She served as board secretary from 2013 to 2015.

Affiliations/Memberships:

Minnesota International NGO Network (MINN): Since 2014 Uniting Distant Stars is listed on the International NGO Directory and featured in the 2015 MINN Global Report.
Minnesota Council of Nonprofits: UDS became a member of MCN in 2015 to access networking, education and job posting opportunities.

TechSoup: UDS become a member of TechSoup to get discounted software and other technology for our operations.