Unfortunately, the owner has not paid him in two months because of the ongoing economic crisis. And yet, Elijah’s spirit remains high as he moves forward with fulfilling his dreams by starting a pop-up pastry business. We hope to share his progress as he continues to develop it.
Elijah also attended the permaculture training in January offered by Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy. He put his skills to work in May when he planted a small garden near his home. He lives near downtown Monrovia in an area called Jallah Town Road. This area is not your ideal garden site because it is rocky and along a cliff. However, you will soon see how he used his permaculture design certification to grow a bountiful garden that he shares with this neighbors.
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.
As graduation nears, one of our catering students, Elijah Kotee, landed a job at a local restaurant on the junction of UN Drive & Camp Johnson Road. This is a stepping stone in establishing his catering business.
When talking with Elijah, he had this to say about his experience: “This is why I am telling people about the Uniting Distant Stars Vocational training school system. Thank you for a great job and for the knowledge that I being impacted with!”
You may remember Elijah decorating the cake for our guests from the Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy-SLFND during the Permaculture training in January. Look at what he is cooking now.
Elijah also served as the Catering Class President, and he was interviewed during their final class project. In the video below, he explains the type of cakes he made and his gratitude for this opportunity.
As you can see, your generous giving helps Liberian Youth make a living. If you are in Liberia, please stop by and visit the restaurant where Elijah works. Thank you!
As a valued Classroom Hero, your Super Powers allow Liberian Youth to realize their own Star Potential. For the past year, your commitment and support has given young men and women the means to learn valuable skills and build self-confidence. Now, as they look forward to graduation, they possess the skills to succeed; you made that possible.
As a result of your generous support, students like Jenneh Mambu (Catering Vice President – in photo) have hope for the future. In this video (at 2:10), Kelvin Fomba (UDS Co-Founder & Director – in photo) asks Jeanette if she could make food now for her and her family. She answers, “Oh yes… Right now, I am not looking for a job to do. I am looking for faith that I go empower myself.” Also, she confirmed the rest of her fellow students feel the same way.
Day 6 – Polyculture & Introduction to Group Projects
Bruce Blair (Board Member & Trainer for SLFND) demonstrated the benefits of polyculture with a model. He explained that polyculture is where unrelated plants grow together. He also showed videos of one particular type of polyculture: The Three Sisters. Typically, the Three Sisters include corn (maize), climbing beans, and squash. This practice originated from Native Americans.
Bruce Blair (SLFND) sharing short documentaries on polyculture and explaining the process to our students.
Bruce discussed group assignments where students create their own design projects. Additionally, he gave our students the option to select a site or social design. What is the difference? Site design focuses on a single garden or farm project, whereas social design includes the whole system design (i.e. economic, environment, health, etc.).
Bruce explaining the group design projects using his model as the example.
After the assignment discussion, the students reviewed the notes on the board in preparation for their group project. Group presentations started on Monday.
UDS students taking notes of their group project assignment.
Days 7 & 8 – Student Presentations of Group Projects & Banana Cycle
On Monday, the groups took their turn to demonstrate what they learned in this class. Each student of the group needed to share something about their project in order for Bruce to assess their knowledge of the permaculture process. As you see in the photos below, our students used different types of 2-D or 3-D models to explain their group projects.
Photos (left to right) show different group presenting their group projects. Some drew their designs on paper while others used a 3-d model.
On Tuesday, Bruce took the group over to the field site to discuss the banana cycle. A banana tree can reproduce itself. Instead of a seed, it grows from the bulb (rhizome).
Bruce explaining how the banana tree reproduces itself.
Day 9 – Final Presentations & Certification Ceremony
The group presentations continued into day 9. Clearly, our students put a great deal of effort into their group project designs. As result, they met the course requirements to be certified in Permaculture Design.
UDS Co-Founder & Director was part of this group project on social design.
Halfway through the day, they paused the group presentations. Joy Alizadeh would soon be leaving, and they wanted to recognize both her and Bruce. So, Kelvin Fomba (UDS Co-Founder & Director) joined Bruce and Joy up front to express the gratitude of all the students. Then he presented them a surprise Thank You Cake made by our catering students.
Photos (left to right): 1) Kelvin giving UDS appreciation to Bruce & Joy, 2) Kelvin presenting the Thank You cake to Bruce & Joy, 3) Catering Students icing the cake, & 4) Bruce holding the cake.
Soon after Joy left, the group presentations resumed. Once the last one ended, the certification ceremony began. Our long-time friend, Rev. Samuel Enders presented each student with their certificate. He also gave a motivational speech about taking this knowledge and putting it to use immediately. In fact, this course taught our students they can start with the resources of the earth and their own two hands.
Rev. Samual Enders of African Dream Academy (yellow polo) presented the students with their certificates. Bruce is on the left and Kelvin on the right.
Next, our students took photos to share their excitement with you. We had 41 out of 45 students successfully complete this course. Unfortunately, the other four had to drop due to scheduling conflicts.
UDS students celebrating and proudly displaying their certificates.
Finally, I want to Thank all our dedicated students and team for their active participation in this course and taking good care of our guests! Additionally, I want to extend our sincerest Thanks to our four sponsors (Ali, John, Edward, and Joel) and SLFND Team (Hindolo, Bruce, Joy, and Brenda) for their support!
By the way, this video features the music “Education is Better than Silver & Gold” written and sung by one of our former computer students, Enoch Daniel Tarr. Additionally, Ernest Norris Jr.created and published the video. Thank you to these aspiring young Liberian Artists!
To conclude this extraordinary year, Liberian Youth give you their heartfelt thanks!