Liberia Youth Drive Their Success

Liberia Youth Drive Their Success

What makes Uniting Distant Stars unique to other vocational training programs? We take a bottom-up approach as follows:

  1. We listen to your students’ suggestions and implemented them from course options to learning labs.
  2. At the start of a new term, your students decide which course or course(s) they want to take.
  3. Your students plan the schedule with the instructor at the start of each one-year term.
  4. Within their learning labs, your students prefer to learn collaboratively with their peers.
  5. Your students enjoy 85% hands-on learning when practicing their skills.
  6. In preparing for graduation, your students organize their commencement ceremony.

Most importantly, your students drive their success because they have an active role. Finally, your role as a Classroom Hero makes this possible.

Video showing Uniting Distant Stars Bottom-up Approach

Your 2019 Accomplishments by the Numbers

Your 2019 Accomplishments by the Numbers

As we close the books for 2019, we wanted to show your life-changing impact. You raised $21,537 to support Liberian Children and Youth as follows:

  • 72% from businesses and individuals
  • 21% from employee matches and contributions from United Way campaigns.
  • 7% from in-kind services.

UDS spent $23,471 on the following programs:

  • Two sets of electrician students installed Solar Power at our center in January and June respectively.  It covers 75% of our electrical needs. Cost $9,100 or 39% ($5,200 raised in 2018). 
  • Over 40 students received the Permaculture Design Certification Training. Cost $3,015  or 13% ($2,165 raised in 2018).
  • Sixteen students continue to receive full-year scholarships from four sponsors. Cost $4,340 or 18.5%. 
  • Two classes (2018-19 and 2019-20) received learning materials to apply their skills in their respective courses. About 75 students graduated in April 2019 and over 100 are currently attending classes at our center. Cost $6,520 or 28%. 

Current assets are $7,398 which 80% is allocated for learning materials and 10% for administrative needs. The remaining 10% is the reserve fund.

Thank you again for your generous and continued support of Liberian Children and Youth! 

Classroom Hero Giving Day

Classroom Hero Giving Day

How are you today? Tuesday, December 3, is Giving Tuesday! Please don’t’ forget to support Classroom Hero Giving Day, our 24-hour fundraiser will empower and equip Liberian Youth with the necessary learning materials for their vocational training courses. Our $2,000 goal can’t happen without your generosity and support of Liberia’s Rising Stars!

Three are three options to donate to our Classroom Hero Giving Day:

  1. Website Donor Page
  2. Facebook Campaign
  3. CashApp $UDStars

Every generous dollar you donate buys learning equipment, materials, and supplies for all vocational training courses. Your students fully utilize your gift in applying and practicing their skills to master their given trade(s).

Thank you for including Uniting Distant Stars in your annual charitable giving!

Thanks to Florkime’s Visit!

Thanks to Florkime’s Visit!

Our center is a place that anyone is welcomed! We were elated when Florkime Paye asked if she could bring anything for UDS and planned to stop by during her visit to Liberia. She carried in a book “Visions from the Forests” about Liberian art and two hand-held water purifiers. The book will be added to our library and used for cultural awareness curriculum for the UDS Academy. Florkime will be sharing information about her trip in an upcoming newsletter (subscribe). 

Florkime Paye (left) and Kelvin Fomba, UDS Co-Founder & Director Liberia.
My Visit to UDS Liberia (Part 2 of 3)

My Visit to UDS Liberia (Part 2 of 3)

by Rita Apaloo, Board Member & Fundraising Team Chair

Rita Apaloo (right)

On my first visit, I had the opportunity to see the center being used as an elementary school for kids in the community. I observed them in their shared classroom spaces and during recess/lunch break. The youngest kids (Pre-K) met in the covered patio area that holds the hair braiding training and makeshift salon. Grades 1 – 4 are spread out in the multipurpose room with partitions and the sewing room. Grades 5 and 6 are upstairs in attic-type area. 

If you missed Part 1 of Rita’s article, click here

I later found that one-room schoolhouses are commonplace in Liberia. There are not enough schools to meet the demand. So, these schools are popping up everywhere to provide some relief and the kids don’t miss out on early learning skills. I’m not sure how effective these one-room schoolhouses are and if the government evaluates or supports them. There are no free government schools currently.

My mom and I got to speak to the older kids and answer a few questions from them. They were all respectful, insightful and full of hope. We really enjoyed learning about the school and the students. When asked what message they would like to send to current and potential donors, they were full of gratitude and wanted school supplies and any additional help. They promised to work hard, stay in school and always do their best.

6th-grade students listening to Rita’s Mom talk (Photos by Rita Apaloo).

As a board member who has been interested and passionate about the vocational training center and concerned about starting an elementary school and stretching our already limited resources, it was hard not to see the blaring needs of the kids, families and surrounding community. In addition, the kids were so excited and already seem to have formed a community through UDS. 

During my visit, it certainly was easy to see the huge economic gaps among the people. I was told by an education industry professional that “schools” have become a business in Liberia. Unfortunately, student success is not always a top priority. I also learned that more and more families are looking beyond academics and are interested in extracurricular activities outside the classroom for a rounded education. As a result, some schools focus too much on these activities than the classroom learning, putting students in a deficit when it comes to learning standards. Many students are also hopping from one school to the next, chasing the latest programming or looking for an easy pass to the next class.

All of these and more are affecting the cost of learning from preschool to high school and beyond. The result is that decent education is moving beyond the reach of more and more families and there are no free government schools to fill the gap. This leaves so many children and families without options. Too many children are put to work to help their family survive or they are left to fend for themselves to survive the harsh economic climate in the country.

Another real challenge to education is access to transportation. Community schools are important to families because they are within walking distance with little or no transportation costs. I learned that some kids have to leave the safety and comfort of home and are sent to live with extended family and friends to be closer to a school, in an effort to reduce or avoid transportation fares. 

UDS Academy is tuition-free but UDS requires families to buy uniforms from the center, made by the staff and tailoring students. UDS also sells water to students (an in-demand necessity in the city) to raise funds for school operations. In addition, tailoring is an in-demand skill as educational institutions and businesses alike are preferring uniforms over regular clothing. The trend in fashion clothing made with African fabrics is also a large and growing market for tailoring skills.

Students buying cold mineral water to drink (Photos by Rita Apaloo)

It was great to meet and chat with UDS faculty. They are passionate about the work and mission and they put student success at the center of everything they do. 

People in Liberia are constantly looking for opportunities to improve their circumstances for the better. The leadership and staff of UDS are no different. Having the center provides multiple opportunities to do more and better. I am amazed at the ingenuity of the leadership and staff in finding ways to do more with limited resources. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot but the challenges are real and the problem-solving and entrepreneurial spirit of the staff is admirable. I see my role as a Board Member to investigate, evaluate and support the efforts of UDS leadership and staff to meet the needs of their students, the community, and business, to help build better futures.
 Part 3 of Rita’s visit will be shared in our next newsletter. Please stay tuned! 

Our Thanks Multiplied By The Number Of Stars!

Our Thanks Multiplied By The Number Of Stars!

Because we are a small and humble organization, your ongoing support of Liberian Youth is beyond measure…like trying to count all the stars in your lifetime. You are celebrated and honored by your studentsbecause you give them the opportunity to learn skills that will change their lives for the better. That is what we call Startacular!

On this Day of Thanksgiving, we want to express our heartfelt, overflowing appreciation and gratitude for the confidence, hope, and supportive learning environment you give to young men and women in Liberia!

Your catering student made this cake especially for you because without your support, they would not have come this far. Elijah Kotte (catering student) shares his thanks and appreciation to you on the behalf of all his fellow students. 

Your Thank You Cake baked by your Catering Students

In the last 20 seconds of this video, Elijah says: “We are telling them Thank You because the knowledge they are imparting on us. If we were sitting out there, we would not learn how to do this. We thank them for the knowledge they imparted on us. This is the reason why we are telling them Thank You.”