Your continual support over the past decade helped build and grow Uniting Distant Stars into a thriving organization. In fact, you took us from supporting other schools to starting our own. Without a doubt, you deserve a huge CONGRATS for a successful decade! So, let’s review your achievements during the 2010s.
2011 – The Journey Begins
Every journey begins with a single step and a small gesture of kindness. For UDS, it began when Kelvin Fomba (Co-Founder & Director) received two barrels and shared school supplies to a school with over 300 young children. This grew into an annual school supply drive for the next five years.
Additionally, our academic scholarship program kicked off with two students in 2011. A year later, we provided eight scholarships for young people seeking a six-month vocational training program. Six young men completed received a masonry certificate and two young women received a plumbing certificate. From this point on, we continued to give financial assistance ambitious.
2013 – Make it Official
After two years of watching our two projects take root, we became a registered Minnesota non-profit in June 2013. At this time, we formed our board and planned our official launch in Liberia in September. With the help of two founding board members, Elijah and Gradieh Wreh, we developed and facilitated a two-day workshop. The “Youth Leadership Workshop on Innovative Creative and Innovative Thinking” introduced Liberian Youth to UDS.
During this workshop held in Monrovia, we challenged the 50 participates to think outside of the box. For instance, they viewed various videos of other African Youth solving a problem with used parts such as generating electricity. Furthermore, Kelvin demonstrated first-hand how this was possible. He first showed them the exhaust manifold he made for the car he drove to the workshop. Next, he modeled the product line (backpacks to rain suits) he made from recycled drinking water sachets.
In close, we probably gained the most from this workshop because we used the concepts to help UDS adapt and grow as an organization.
2014 & 2015 – Facing Challenges
Our excitement from 2013 turned to great concern in 2014 when the Ebola Crisis took center stage in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. As the nation declared a state of emergency and shuttered all schools, our flagship programs came to a halt. Yet, some of the youth did not want to sit idle. So, they reached out and asked Kelvin to provide some skills training.
Although we did not have a school yet, Kelvin transformed his home to a learning center. Also, he received training on how to mitigate risk during the Ebola crisis and implement safety protocols. Then, we started two pilot projects: auto mechanics-drivers education training and sewing durable products with recycled materials. The former worked with 14 youth and later with 4.
As the crisis started to subside in 2015, we launched our “Backpacks for Peace” program. From the results of the 2014 pilot, we recruited 20 youth to learn how to sew recycled drinking water sachets into backpacks. in the course of the next four months, they made over 300 backpacks. Later that year, the backpacks filled with school supplies were giving to young children.
Because of the success of our skills training programs, more youth started to come to our doors and seek our help. At this time, we discovered the youth were our guiding force. We listened to their needs and did what we could to make it possible.
2016 & 2017 – Growth and Expansion
When your mission is youth-focused, be prepared to respond to their requests. That is exactly what we did in 2016. First, they wanted afternoon study classes, and then computer training. Soon, our learning center (Kelvin’s house) overflowed with children and youth. The center offered a library, after school study classes, and auto mechanics, computers, and sewing training.
It became clear that we needed a larger place and the search was on. Kelvin found a former school building within five minutes from his house. With help from one of our sustaining donors, we secured the building in May 2016. The building was in deplorable condition, so Kelvin and his team started to refresh and renovate it into a suitable learning environment by October 2016. Another sustaining donor gave us the funds to install electricity. In just a matter of five months, we held the grand opening of our new center.
Before 2016 ended, we applied for and received our TVET permit to offer professional and technical training. Immediately, our team began recruiting students for vocational training. By February 2017, we officially opened our Vocational Training Center with year-long courses in highly demanded trades. The students received over 80% hands-on training to apply the skills. Gratefully, this achievement resulted from a small community of global supporters and a highly resourceful Liberian team. Thank you!
2018 & 2019 – Building Sustainability
Before the new academic school year began in September 2018, we were inundated by pleas from parents in the community. Liberia’s increasing inflation forced many families to affordable schools. Our team stepped up to the challenge and developed a plan to open a tuition-free school. First, they needed the parents to agree to buy the student uniforms made by UDS to be a self-sustaining school. Next, our team pooled their resources to transform the center into a dual-purpose building. Finally, the UDS Academy opened with 350 students.
As we moved into 2019, Liberia’s economic crisis caused businesses to close, and exchange rates and prices to increase. Now more than ever, we needed to find ways to increase our sustainability. Starting in January and June, we installed solar panels to provide 75% of our electrical needs.
In October, Kelvin did major repairs for a person’s vehicle and they gave us a shop (near our center) for 18 months rent-free. In November, we moved our cosmetology department to the shop and opened a hair salon to sell products. All these initiatives are part of our three-year strategic plan.
2010s – A Decade of Successes
As we close this decade, we want to celebrate you for joining UDS on this journey. It took a global village to make this all possible. Your generous giving and continued prayers kept us moving forward despite the challenges. We are forever grateful for your service!
Can you hear it? Our joyful children and youth in Liberia are singing their praises and thanks to you! They are so grateful to you for raising $3,500 in this year’s school supply drive, from both our annual campaign and our Dimes for Dreams promotion. Through your unfailing support, we raised 50% of our goal, and this will put needed school supplies in the hands of young children. Our Liberian team worked with all three schools on how to give each one of the 700 students supplies, because no one wants a young child to go home empty handed!
Here is the schedule for the distribution of your generous gift to these children:
October 23: Rogma International School in Paynesville will host their program for students to receive their supplies. (Photos & stories will be posted soon).
October 29: City of Joy & Russ Wood students & parents are invited to attend UDS Learning Center Grand Opening Program In Divine Town Community to receive their supplies and learn about our programs.
Your faith and commitment to our cause empowered our team in Liberia to complete the painting of the building and move into to our new site. One of our long-time donors provided a donation to install electricity in our new learning center. We opened to students over a week ago. While the building serves the students with their educational and vocational training needs, we will continue to solicit funds to finish the renovations, pay the remaining portion of the lease, buy needed equipment and supplies, and provide salaries.
Kelvin (right) completing the final touches of the building.
Inside the main hall with its new lights.
The other side of the main hall.
This leads to the door of the registration office.
You inspire excellence! Young students receiving help with their homework.
One of our teachers providing a study class for young students.
Another teaching holding a study class for older students.
Students learning how to use the computer.
Computers students learning the how to use basic software programs.
Your compassionate service to the children & youth in Liberia is providing them with the knowledge & supplies they need to succeed in their academic studies. We give you our whole-hearted “Thank You!” for making this all possible!
Uniting Distant Stars Liberian Co-Founder and Country Director Kelvin Fomba has a message to share to You, our valued Star Supporter.
Hello, UDS Team in the U.S. and around the world. First of all, we say, “thanks and appreciation for your wonderful support!” The Liberia Team has worked nonstop with the renovations because our old learning center can no longer accommodate the 250-plus students from around the city seeking our study classes. All schools are open right now, so the kids and youth are eager to start their study classes at our new learning center. Therefore, our volunteers and youth have joined hands to work hard at the new learning by cleaning, painting, and other finishing work in some parts of the building.
Here are photos showing some of our scholarship students–Blessing, Deborah, Ishmael, Korlu, Korlu (yes there are two), and Rita–cleaning the floor along with one of their classmates.
Young Liberians showing their appreciation for your amazing support by cleaning the floor of our new learning center.
These young ladies are using brooms and rags to remove the white wash paint from the floor.
Your steadfast generosity give students like Rita a reason to smile while she works.
Your kindness and support provides hope to our youth that they will go the extra mile to prepare our learning center for opening.
Your compassion for Uniting Distant Stars youth empowers them to work together to clean their new learning center.
Please stay tuned for our next update showing the slow but steady transformation of our new learning center. You are appreciated and praised by our youth and volunteers in Liberia for making their lives better!
Liberian children and youth witnessed their wishes being answered in the past two weeks. Uniting Distant Stars (UDS) raised $2,042 (shy of our $2,500 goal) from our generous Star Supporters to upgrade our Learning Center in Congo Town, Liberia. Our Liberian team led by Kelvin Fomba, Co-Founder and Country Director, went the extra mile to check off the items on the students’ original wish list. In the last eight days another $360 was donated from new and existing benevolent supporters. Their gracious generosity will buy other items on the list such as fans to keep the center comfortable, additional books for the library, chalk board for instructors, and other crucial needs for its operations.
Like any good upgrade you need to have a release party. On Friday March 25, UDS Learning Center hosted two programs. The first one was organized by the UDS Youth Group. Since it was Good Friday, they focused on Easter. During this three-hour program they talked about the meaning of Easter, played some games, and also had a Bible quizzing contest between the boys and girls. They had two rounds with each having 20 questions and one question was worth 10 points. The boys and girls tied in the first round. However, in the second round the boys out scored the girls 120 to 80. Our Youth Group’s program was a resounding success and everyone had a great time.
Youth Groups Program
UDS Youth Bible Quizzing Contest
The second program followed soon after to introduce our youth to the new UDS Computer Lab. They have eagerly waited for this lab ever since we started the upgrade campaign last year. The original plan was to have four computers, but Kelvin reached out to his connections and helped secure six used PCs–four laptops and two desktops. He is still negotiating on adding one or two more computers. Our team also built computer desks and bought a stabilizer to protect the PCs from power surges and outages, because electricity is neither consistent nor reliable. Another stabilizer will be purchased with the recent donations to ensure the electrical load is distributed evenly.
UDS Computer Lab
Our team expected 25 to 30 young Liberians to attend this three-hour program, but it attracted over 50. Computer training is in high demand with Liberian youth, but not everyone can afford to take courses at vocational training schools. This is why our team went all out in preparing the lab and its introduction program.
Kelvin Fomba introducing the computer lab.
Kelvin opened with how the computer lab will operate and its corresponding rules. Next part was to determine who would be the first recipients of this training course. Kelvin and his volunteers devised a raffle drawing to select trainees since there was a ratio of approximately four students to one computer. Our youth anxiously waited to hear who were the lucky winners as each name was pulled. Soon twelve students were chosen to attend one of two classes, because we wanted to accommodate as many as possible.
Liberian Youth learning about the new UDS Computer Lab
The students will learn about computer hardware, basic software and internet functions in this month-long course. Other students wanting to attend this course signed up on a list and will participate in computer theory classes as they wait their turn for the practical training. The training materials and curriculum for this program are being developed by our volunteers in Liberia and Minnesota.
UDS Youth learning about computers.
First Students of the UDS Computer Lab
Another part of the upgrade included expanding our library collection. On Monday March 14, two of our youth volunteers, Patrick and Princess, purchased 52 books from the list of requested titles and topics from our students. These books are required by their schools as part of the curriculum. Though our volunteers bought 80% of the books requested by the students, their list continues to grow. Eventually, we like to purchase additional copies of the main books to allow more than one student to use for their homework assignments.
Additional books purchased for the library
UDS Youth appreciating the new books.
The following day these new books were included in our studying classes. There are two objectives with these study classes as follows:
Students are asked a series of questions about the subject(s) and topic(s) for their assignments and are then shown how to find books in the library and search for the information within the book.
Students are given detailed instruction from one of volunteer teachers on a particular subject area that they are working on at school to help bolster their understanding and ability to apply it in their homework and exams.
Students receiving a tour of the UDS library.
UDS first opened our learning center over a year ago with a small library and providing skills training courses such as auto mechanics, drivers ed and Backpacks for Peace. In September 2015, it had its first upgrade with building extra shelves for additional books donated from the U.S. and more tables for students to complete their homework. This second upgrade was centered on the requests of our students to best meet their educational needs since their schools are not able to provide the required books and textbooks or computer labs. Through our growing community of bighearted supporters, our students are extremely grateful and overjoyed with seeing their wishes being fulfilled.
All of us at Uniting Distant Stars extend our heartfelt Thanks and Appreciation to our most generous Star Supporters!
Please read these additional posts about our learning center.
Double your gift’s impact by unlocking a $250 challenge grant from a generous donor for our Learning Center in Liberia. We have raised $1,407.34 (56%) towards our $2,500 goal to buy additional books for the library, extra tables and chairs for the students, provide a computer lab and additional learning resources. By investing as little as $10.00 today, you will respond to the requests of ambitious Liberian students seeking to improve their future prospects.
It was roughly a year ago when we first opened the learning center with limited resources as shown below.
Eight months later we made the first upgrade with donated library books, a science kit and microscope from the miraculous delivery of our 2014 supplies in August 2015. This prompted our Liberian team to build bookshelves and tables to accommodate students.
One month later the schools opened for the new academic year in September 2015. The center soon attracted children and youth from the community attending different schools to take advantage of its resources and participate in our study classes.
Starting in March 2016, we will implement the next upgrade envisioned by our students. Your contribution will buy the books they are required to read, add a computer lab to teach them basic skills, and provide other educational materials to assist with their studies.
You can be part of their vision by donating at least $10 today to unlock the challenge grant. Plus if you give more, we will honor your kindness and generosity as follows:
Receive a personalized Thank You letter (scanned copy) from one of our students in Liberia for donations of $50 or more.
Have your name displayed on a plaque located in our learning center in Liberia for donations of $100 or more along with the personalized Thank you letter.
Please contribute by credit or debit card by clicking the DONATE BUTTON below.
Or by check payable to Uniting Distant Stars and mail to:
Uniting Distant Stars 4010 Lawndale LN N Plymouth, MN 55446
Your tax-deductible contribution is a key to unlock the challenge grant and the hidden potential of Liberian students. Thank you for your generous support! Read other blog posts about our learning center:
Our learning center continues to get a flow of new students who hear about this from word of month. Since our youth has requested for more items, we asked them to share why this center matters to their education. The following student participated in our Backpacks for Peace training last year and is a second-year scholarship student:
Deborah values the opportunities she receives from UDS and does what she can to give back to others. Since we are always in need of volunteers, Deborah helps with study classes for younger students as shown below.
Deborah is one of about 50 students who utilize our learning center to help with their educational needs. We hope her story inspires you to support their wishes to add more books, tables and chairs, fans, computers and other learning materials. We have raised $1267.34 or 51% of our $2,500 goal. As little as $10.00 can do a lot to achieve their wishes. Please contribute by credit or debit card by clicking the DONATE BUTTON below.
Or by check payable to Uniting Distant Stars and mail to:
Uniting Distant Stars 4010 Lawndale LN N Plymouth, MN 55446
Your tax-deductible contribution is an investment into the academic achievements of students like Deborah with lasting returns. Thank you for your generous support! Read other blog posts about our learning center: