On October 31, Uniting Distant Stars Vocational Training Center held a general meeting. These meetings bring students and staff together to provide information and solicit feedback. Some shared how this is the first school they have attended in Liberia that “has so much respect for students”. Also, some commented on how this “is the only school that gets the students’ views before making any administrative decisions”. As you may recall in our last newsletter, we shared a video on how we are a youth-driven organization and the students’ feedback confirm this notion.
Additionally, the instructors talked about how much they appreciate the benefit of learning another trade. As a small institution, we pay a small monthly stipend so we added an incentive to learn a trade for free. Many of our instructors take advantage of this opportunity.
Introducing Uniting Distant Stars Instructors
Now we like to introduce you to our instructors and what other roles they play at Uniting Distant Stars. From the photo below we will start from the top photo and go left to right then down to the bottom two photos left to right as follows:
Michael Gaye, Event Decoration Co-Instructor (started in 2019). The class enrollment grew this year, so he has a co-instructor and he is learning from him.
Frank Tugbeh, Catering Instructor (started in 2018). He has a catering business on the side and continues to share his knowledge with the students.
Emmanuel Duwah, Cosmetology Instructor (started in 2019). He is active in his career as a hairstylist.
Myrtle Stoe, Hotel Management Teachers Assistant (started in 2019). She graduated from this course in 2019 and started assisting the instructor, Amed Saah Blama (not pictured). She also serves as the registrar and does other administrative duties. This year she enrolled in event decoration.
Nelson S. Borlay, Academy Principal and Vocational Training Administration (started in 2018). He is enrolled in catering.
Kelvin Fomba, Auto Mechanics & Computer Instructors. He wears many hats including Co-Founder & Country Director and will help anywhere that is needed.
Boakai Dillion, Electrician Instructor (started in 2018). He is a 2017/2018 graduate and took over for the ailing instructor in 2018. Boakai is started helping with administrative duties last year and wants to continue to grow with the organization.
Daniel Williams, Event Decoration Co-Instructor (started 2020). He comes with extensive experience in event decorating, thus the reason why Michael wants to learn from him. He is also enrolled as an electrician student.
Askia D. Nyandibo, Plumbing Instructor (started in 2019). He currently works as a plumber.
Jerry Paypay, Tailoring Instructor (started in 2018). He makes time from his busy tailoring business to teach your students how to make and repair clothes and other items.
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.
Cultivating young leaders is a core aspect of ourmission. Roseline Sonday was promoted from teacher’s aide to the instructor of the cosmetology department in July. She is an experienced hairstylist and used her time as a teacher’s aide to learn how to apply facials and provide manicures and pedicures.
Her journey started with Uniting Distant Stars in 2014. She was one of four youth who piloted our backpack project from September to December 2014. In the program, students learned how to make backpacks from recycled drinking water sachets. She joined the training team of the 2015 Backpacks for Peace Service Learning Project that trained 20 youth to make the same backpacks. Later that same year, these backpacks were donated and filled with school supplies to give to young school children.
When we secured our training center in 2016, she helped with painting the exterior of the building and refurbishing the facility. She was also part of the recruitment team that same year and helped with finding youth to enroll for the first term starting February 2017. She became the student coordinator and cosmetology teacher’s aide for the 2017/2018 term. She continued both roles this term and recruited the instructor, Felton Waydiyee Fouah. Earlier in July, Felton moved to a different location, and the distance to travel made it impossible for him to continue his work UDS. Felton told Kelvin Fomba, UDS Co-Founder & Director, that Roseline was ready to be an instructor.
From left to right, top to bottom: Roseline sewing backs in 2014. She is modeling the backpack to promote 2015 Backpacks for Peace Project. She is painting the exterior wall in 2016. She is giving a manicure in 2017.
Roseline is one of our shining stars in Liberia! She is grateful for the opportunities she had with UDS, and her next goal is to attend college. She is now waiting for the results of her entrance exam to the Univerity of Liberia. Her dream is to get her college degree because she would be the first in her family. Roseline is the fifth born out of eight children, and sadly, she had one brother die this year. She is steadfast in accomplishing her goals, and we support her every step of the way.
“Please join me to appreciate the UDS Family, because this is the organization that is changing my life continuously without limitation. Since I graduated from high school, June 14, 2014, UDS has been the first to employ me and helped me receive my first salary as an instructor, no matter how much it might be. I am so blessed and willing to continue working with UDS to share these blessings with others.” ~ Roseline Sonday
Congratulations to Roseline Sonday for all your great service and work for the youth of Liberia!
As the clock ticks closer to the first vocational training classes at our training center, our Team Liberia is working fervently to finalize preparations! Our team is ecstatic to show you, our dedicated Star Supporter, their passion and resolve in helping to equip young Liberians with the skills they need to be self-sufficient. You are giving them the drive to ensure everything is set for the opening day on February 1st.
Training Center Preparations: Our extremely talented volunteers have fixed the remaining two toilets (there are four bathrooms) and built removable partitions in our great hall for the individual classes. Our training center is hooked up to the city water supply, and work is needed to connect to the pipes in the building. Sanitation and conducive learning environments are critical for our students.
One of two new commodes replaced to ensure all four bathrooms are working.
Daude, who is a young volunteer, with skills in carpentry and masonry.
Daude built the removable partitions in our great hall.
Tools for Success: Our team started purchasing the equipment and materials that students will use for their practical training. Our computer training program draws the most students. This is why seven used desktops were purchased this week to increase our total to 16! Our goal is 20, if we can find a vendor who has available computers. Also, another essential item was purchased: a printer! Some of our courses will require worksheets as part of the learning tools.
Your generosity purchased these desktops being installed in our computer lab.
UDS Co-Founder & Country Director, Kelvin Fomba, helping volunteers with the installation.
Thank you for this much needed printer!
Student Orientation: Friday, January 27th, About 50 young men and women attended an orientation session at our training center. They were introduced to their instructors, toured the facility, received information on program rules and code of conduct, were provided the schedule, and much more. Currently, about 40 students have registered for our 8 courses—Electricity, Auto Mechanics, Plumbing, Computers, Interior Design, Cosmetology, Hotel Management and Catering. While there is interest for our two other courses: sewing and masonry, students have not paid their registration fee yet.
Kelvn Fomba welcoming young Liberian to our student orientation.
Our instructors introduce themselves to the students, Kelvin will be training the auto mechanics.
Computer students meet their instructor and learn about the expectation for this course.
Talk Show: Also, on January 27, Kelvin Fomba (UDS Co-Founder & Country Director), Godfrey Solomon (Hossana Children’s Foundation Co-Founder & UDS Volunteer), and Patrick Junusa, Jr. (UDS Volunteer) participated on Radio Advent’s talk show. One of the broadcasters of this station, Thomas Jefferson, expressed an interest in partnering with UDS. He and others are interested in participating in our training classes to learn a skill while offering us free time on the airwaves to share our services. This radio station is walking distance from our center so this a perfect relationship!
Kelvin on the left and Godfrey on the right.
Patrick on the left and Kelvin on the right.
The Joy of Training Youth to Succeed was made possible byyour compassion and selflessness! There is not enough ways for us to express our heartfelt appreciation and thanks for your continued to support in making Young Stars in Liberia shine brighter.