Throughout the year, Kelvin Fomba, Co-Founder & Director, found ways to keep things afloat by using his skills as a master mechanic. He often donates his income to support daily operations. He also uses his skills for exchange services to further our cause.
On October 30, he and another person agreed to trade deal in lieu of cash. This person wanted to help UDS but didn’t have the means. However, he had a jeep that needed major engine repairs. Kelvin had the parts needed for the job and completed the work with his mechanical students in a few days.
UDS Hair Salon
Upon completing the work, the person offered UDS his shop within a five-minute walk from our center. We moved our cosmetology department to the new location. Our team painted the exterior walls with our colors, built shelves and workstations, and purchased hair and other products. Through Kelvin’s efforts, UDS now has a hair salon as part of our social enterprise initiative. The sales from hair and products will provide an additional revenue stream.
As you can see in a cash-strapped economy, the barter system plays a pivotal role in helping people sustain themselves during a crisis. In this case, Kelvin provided $1,000 of work this equated to $1,800 in rent of the shop ($100 monthly rent).
In close, this gave us the means to start this small enterprise. And we hope to receive additional support to build more workstations, buy sinks for hair washing and hair dryers, and other material to make it a full salon.
After a successful first year of the UDS Academy, our team gears up for the 2019-2020 academic school year. The preparation started in July when they opened registration in response to the parents’ pleas. These same parents started telling others about what they loved about UDS and new parents flooded our registration office. Our gratitude goes to Myrtle S Toe (2019 Hotel Management Graduate), who graciously volunteered to oversee the primary school registration! Her giving back did not stop with registration, she also will be the preschool teacher. Thank you, Myrtle, for paying it forward!
Another part of preparing for the new school year included a teacher’s workshop. On August 31, all current and new teachers attended an all-day workshop. Kelvin Fomba, Nelson Bolay (UDS Academy Principal), and Webster Dayee (UDS Volunteer) provided information on creating lesson plans, understanding the various learning styles, and much more.
Again, the UDS Academy was started by our Liberian Team last year in response to families unable to pay the rising cost of tuition. The academy is not only a benefit to the community but also our vocational training students who have young students. This allows them to pursue their dream while ensuring their children receive an education.
Thank you for empowering our team to do more to serve the next generation of Liberians! We also welcome any support to help provide more learning materials for the school.
On Saturday, August 17, Kelvin Fomba (UDS Co-Founder & Director) served as the guest speaker for the Bethlehem Commencement Ceremony. As a note, 7 out of 17 Uniting Distant Stars scholarship students attend Bethlehem with one graduating, Deborah Tweah.
Kelvin spoke about 30 minutes talking about the role the teacher, parent and student all possess in achieving academic excellence. In addition, he explained how the UDS Vocational Training Center teaches the necessary skills for young people to learn a trade.
Next, he shared stories of our graduates finding work either through employment or using their skills for paid projects. As a result, the graduates responded and said they would like to attend UDS as they apply for colleges.
After Kelvin completed his talk, some journalists approached him for an interview. They wanted to interview him about our academic scholarship and vocational training program. He graciously shared how UDS brings supporters like you from different parts of the world to help with educating the youth. He expressed his gratitude over the radio for all of you in making it possible to serve Liberian Youth.
Your continued and generous support does changes the lives of young men and women for the better. Thank you for being their Classroom Hero!
Since 2011, Uniting Distant Stars partnered with generous sponsors to provide academic scholarships in primary and secondary level education. As we move forward to 2019, we are excited to announce the Graduation of Deborah Tweah! She is our fourth graduate from this program with the first in 2014 and the other two in 2016.
Deborah joined UDS in 2015 as one of the participants in the Backpacks for Peace Service Learning Project. While she was learning how to sew backpacks, she shared her struggle in finding support to return to school. Based on her efforts in the backpacks project, she received a sponsor to see her through graduation.
On Saturday, August 17, 2019, Deborah received her diploma from the Bethlehem Baptist School, a 5-minute walking distance from our school. Not only did she successfully pass the 12th grade but she also passed her national exam.
Sadly, Deborah did not have any family to attend her graduation. So, UDS leadership and scholarship students showed up to support her on this special day. Also, they held a celebration party at the center after the commencement ceremony. She felt honored to receive such a gift that she gave UDS Co-Founder & Director, Kelvin Fomba her gown and Brother Daniel Lloyd her cap (he helped facilitate the scholarship program when working with one of the partnership schools).
Thank you to Deborah’s sponsor for allowing her to graduate from high school! We hope that she can share her own story in a future article.
Being recognized in Liberia is one of our greatest challenges as a three-year-old vocational training center. That changed when Alieu Kemokai, Technical & Administrative Assistant/TVET of Youth & Sports Ministry, invited Kelvin Fomba to attend the TVET teachers workshop from July 22 to July 27. Mr. Kemokai presented diplomas at our April 13, 2019, commencement ceremony and left impressed with what he saw. It included 50 participates from several vocational training institutes along with staff employed at the Ministry of Youth & Sports.
Kelvin found this workshop invaluable from both the information shared and the connections made. The instructor, a U.S. woman from UNESCO (UN Agency that developed the TVET program). She started with reviewing the top four learning styles, moved into developing effective learning plans and core concepts in providing quality TVET training. Importantly, UDS maintains a TVET permit since November 2016.
Additionally, UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) helped facilitate this training. Both UNESCO and UNIDO realized the need for additional support of vocational training organizations in Liberia. They plan to provide advanced training to all the attendees in the future.
Throughout this training, Kelvin noticed some of his peers lacked computer knowledge. At the closing program, Kelvin offered six scholarships to instructors to attend our computer course. The Deputy Minister of TVET, Peter Bemah, commended Kelvin’s effort and stressed the importance of helping each other.
Now that Kelvin completed this training, he will be holding a workshop with our instructors next month. His workshop will provide the information he learned and discuss how to implement it into our program.
by Rita Apaloo, Board Member & Fundraising Team Chair
The VTC students had completed their training year and were preparing for graduation during my visit. I was able to meet some of the new incoming students on March 25. Many of them were recruited through radio promotions and others were referred by current or former students. In talking with some of the students, I learned that they chose to enroll for several different reasons including learning a vocation, getting credentials for something they have been doing, affordable program, job prospects, self-employment, quality (practical) training, proximity to the center, the sense of family/community at UDS, etc.
UDS instructors were all present to introduce themselves and share some information about their various courses, in an effort to entice the students to sign up with their respective departments. We had a good laugh listening to their persuasive speeches. The students were excited to get started and appreciated hearing my story of how both my parents benefitted from vocational training and were able to provide a great life for us kids by using their skills to build great careers over the years. I also shared about my UDS Board experience and urged them to work hard and become the kind of success stories that donors and potential donors love to support. We are all partners in this work and play important roles in building and growing the organization.
Unfortunately, the UDS Graduation was postponed past my visit so I wasn’t able to participate as initially planned. I also met with graduating students on March 30 who also appreciated my presence and story. After they took care of the business of fees, payments and other details about the ceremony, I thanked them and bid them good luck in their futures and encouraged them to stay in touch. I asked that they keep us posted on how they’re using their skills and learning and also about their accomplishments and successes.
I was honored to meet a couple of amazing students, Elijah Kotee and Gabriel Zargo, who had already found success even before graduation. Elijah completed UDS Catering training. He had a job working at a restaurant and also did independent catering when he wasn’t working for his employer. Elijah was appreciative of his UDS Diploma and said that the diploma was needed to open doors to the kinds of opportunities he would like to pursue. He also completed the Permaculture training program in hopes to someday combine both trainings to prepare sustainable farming food that he grows and provides a healthier option for his catering clients. Elijah has big dreams and more than enough passion to make it all happen. I have no doubt that sooner or later he will pull it off.
Gabriel completed UDS computer training and is an entrepreneur. His business, LifeChore, is an employment incubator that operates in the hospitality and manufacturing industries with the mission to help youth find great jobs. He was recognized during the meeting for having referred a couple of hospitality students from UDS graduating class to a business client. They were interviewed and offered employment at a hotel. He said that his company has helped over 20 youth find short and long term jobs. I was proud to have been a small part of their lives, dreams, and success through UDS. I can’t wait to see what more they accomplish in the future.
Indeed, UDS is making dreams come true, one student at a time.