“Youthrive Event” with Youth from Liberia and Minnesota

“Youthrive Event” with Youth from Liberia and Minnesota

 

On Saturday, the annual Youthrive Event was held at Augsburg college in Minnesota. Liberian youth were able to participate in this forum via Google Hangout, and engage with American youth in the discussions; which, primarily focused on addressing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) issued in 2015 by the UN (see infographic below).

 

On the Liberian end, there were about 100 youth who came to be a part of this Google Hangout meeting with students in Minnesota, and all our UDS instructors were there as well. The youth received refreshments which our catering students helped prepare. Pictured below (left) is a sandwich called “light bread,” made with cabbage, sausage, and other vegetables. Everyone who attended the event in Liberia received two sandwiches and a soft drink.

 

In Liberia, attendees were divided up into 17 groups, and each one discussed a different Sustainable Development Goal; below is a video group #8, discussing SDG: “Good Jobs and Economic Growth.”

 

 

At Augsburg, American students were also divided up into groups to discuss the different SDG’s. This video was shown as part of their table rotation discussions:
                               

 

After the group discussions, UDS co-founder, Heather Cannon-Winkleman, was able to lead the conversation between with our team in Liberia about their thoughts and feelings about the day’s activities.

 

It is incredible the amount of people this meeting was able to reach; because of your continued compassion toward and awareness of our youth in Liberia, Uniting Distant Stars has experienced significant growth in the number of Liberian students being educated over the past year, and had the resources to make this event happen.

 

Youth separated by miles of land and ocean, were able to see, listen to, and interact with one another, they were able to put their invaluable minds together as a part of a global team. Which, is exactly what the UN goals are all about: working together, country to country, human to human, to achieve a world of no poverty, no hunger, quality education, and more.

Thank you for making a world of difference! The future looks bright ahead.

Backpacks for Peace: First Month Project Report

Uniting Distant Stars (UDS) completed the first month of the Backpacks for Peace Service Learning Project on March 20, 2015. This blog post shares the project report from Kelvin Fomba, UDS Co-Founder and Country Director in Liberia. 
Kelvin Fomba (brown shirt) interacting with our students’ while they wash the plastic squares.
First of all, we thank God plenty for saving our lives during the EBOLA crisis. We ask God to forgive and bless the souls of all those that died from it, and may they rest in perfect peace. Although we have not been declared Ebola FREE yet, we pray that this will happen soon. Secondly, we also want to give our THANKS and APPRECIATION to all those who made this project possible! 

Our instructor, Charles Mamba, (standing in the middle) supervising the students while they wash the plastic that has been supplied by African Dream Academy.

The students’ progress has been remarkable during this first month. This training has shown how the Liberian youth possess the eagerness to learn. They focus on their lessons, show up regularly for class, and cooperate with their trainers and fellow students. Additionally, the two instructors and the two assistant trainers clearly demonstrate their dedication to our training program. They enjoy interacting with our students and guiding them in achieving the training objectives. They easily handle the obstacles that may arise with not having an ideal training space. They are comfortable with teaching both the practical and theoretical concepts of sewing and using non-traditional “fabrics” to make these backpacks that will benefit our young people. 
The students taking notes during the classroom sessions.
We have seen a vast improvement in our students performance from the first day of this project. For the first three weeks, the students practiced how to properly pedal the sewing machines and each one passed this part of the training. During week four, they transitioned into sewing the individual plastic squares into long strips. These strips are then cut into smaller ones of four squares each. Three of these smaller strips are then sewn together (three squares wide by four squares long) to create the appropriate sized “fabric” that will be used for the backpacks. At this time, 80% of our students have accomplished this part of the training, whereas the other 20% need more practice with threading the machine correctly from the top and bottom to securely sew the plastic together.

Our other instructor, Mohammed Sesay (black shirt) is inspecting the strips of plastic.

From this experience, our young trainees quickly realized that learning is the key to success. This is evident when a student brings their school uniform for repairs and they can fix it themselves on the sewing machine. This added benefit of repairing their own clothes enforces the importance of how continued practice leads to a developed skill. They also appreciate how UDS goes beyond this basic training initiative by impacting them with valuable knowledge through expanding their world view, like connecting them with other youth in the U.S. with Google Hangout.

Our students sewing the individual plastic squares into strips.
In particular, they cannot stop talking about the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Youth Forum. For a few of the youth who attended this unique event, they commented how this allowed them to see and talk with white people for the first time. The forum made our presence known in the surrounding communities, that we have had young people come and ask how they can join our training program. With having limited space, we are not able accept additional students for this current session. However, we are recording their names to participate in future training courses.
Another view of the students at work.
Clearly, the training and the forum have left quite an impression on our students and they enjoy sharing their experience with their families. This prompted a few of the families to accompany their children to our site to show their appreciation for UDS, Sundance Family Foundation, youthrive, and all our donors who contributed to our programming. They are pleased with how we are teaching their children to think-outside-of-the-box in regards to making a useful product with limited resources. Furthermore, these parents and guardians give their thanks and prayers for our supporters to prosper and that God will provide everyone strength to continue helping the youth of Liberia. They expressed their gratitude for UDS providing a light lunch with this training. Though our efforts may seem insignificant to some, for these families it means a “million” to them. 
Our students busy with sewing the long strips together.
With the successes, we also face plenty of challenges that required adjustments to our programming. Here are two examples: 
  1. Holidays: During the first four weeks, Liberia has had at least three holidays where no training was in session. 
  2. School schedules: All schools are now open. However, some of the teachers release the students late and a few youth are required to attend a study class after school. Therefore, the scheduling process has become a crazy endeavor. 
These challenges have taught us to be flexible. Even though we had less training days, our young trainees have kept up with their lessons and demonstrated their ability to meet or exceed the expectations. We adjusted our times to meet our students’ schedules to ensure they benefit from both their academic studies and vocational training. Their learning and development is our major concern and responsibility. 
Kelvin (orange shirt) checks in with the backpack students while conducting mechanical training in the carport.
Overall, this opportunity has been beneficial to the 20 students recruited for this innovative training project. We have observed their confidence increase as they move forward with each step of the training. We have welcomed their ideas and suggestions on how we can improve and expand this program to train additional youth in the future. We are pleased with the results and look forward to advancing their progress in the coming month.

This closes our first month project report. More updates will follow as we go.

Best regards,

Kelvin

UDS Youth Vitually Participates in the Nobel Peace Prize Youth Forum

For the second consecutive year, Uniting Distant Stars, Inc. (UDS) in Liberia participated via Google Hangout in the Nobel Peace Prize Youth Forum (NPPY Forum) at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota on March 6, 2015. This was a unique experience for our 50-plus youth representing students in primary to college level as well as young people unable to attend school due to financial reasons. 

We displayed this banner at the beginning of the week and it spawned great enthusiasm by our young beneficiaries. This was donated by our two co-founders–Kelvin Fomba (Liberia) and Heather Cannon-Winkelman (United States)
In preparation of this much anticipated event, our Country Director Kelvin Fomba held a workshop the day before. He reviewed the activities along with sharing some background on the Nobel Laureate, the Organisation of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), who they would be listening to during the forum. Also, they watched the TEDTalks of William Kamkwamba from Malawi and Kelvin Doe from Sierra Leone for some additional inspiration.

Left photo: Kelvin conducting the workshop. Right photo: our youth watching William Kamkwamba’s TEDTalk “How I built a windmill”.
On the day of the event, our organizing team in Liberia was eager and ready to connect about two hours before the forum started (Liberia is six hours ahead of Minnesota). Shortly after the program opened, our youth were given a warm and hearty welcome from their Minnesota peers when they popped up on the two large screens on both sides of the stage at Augsburg’s Kennedy Center gym. This is the moment that made this experience real to our youth as they saw over 600 Minnesota students waving and saying Hello to them.

This photo was taken by UDS Executive Director at the forum when the Liberian youth appeared on the screen during the welcome at the forum. (The lighting was challenge to taking photos of the screen.)
As the program continued, the emcees of youthrive, the organization that produces the NPPY Forum, took a few moments to review their four simple rules for engaged leadership–Show Up, Speak Truth, Change Yourself, and Lead! The Change Yourself rule was the one that intrigued our youth the most. This led into a more detailed discussion after the forum on why this is important in order to bring about positive change in their communities.

Kelvin (red shirt) talking with our youth at the forum at the start.
Next, our youth were captivated by the talk from Leiv Sydnes of the OPCW and they gained a great respect of this organization’s dangerous, but invaluable work on eradicating the world of chemical weapons. At one point during his presentation, he showed a slide of a patient being treated for chemical burns that had the doctors wearing masks and hazmat suits similar to what they saw with the Ebola outbreak. This sparked a discussion with Kelvin on whether Ebola was a chemical weapon. He explained how many chemicals have no smell or can be seen, and like Ebola these suits are worn for their protection.

The banner is hanging with two rain suits next to it on each side. These rain suits are created with the same plastic used for the backpacks. Also, hanging on the wall on the left side is one of the backpacks made during the first phase of this project.
At the end of Leiv’s presentation, our youth were the first ones to ask him a question. They were interested in knowing the OPCW strategy in how they will eradicate production and uses of chemical weapons in order create world peace. Leiv responded by saying that chemical weapons only represents a small percentage of the issues challenging world peace. So while the OPCW is working on their part, these other areas of concern such as wars need to addressed as well.

Here our youth watching the forum in Liberia. The two youth in the front on the right are drinking water from the plastic sachets that are used for our Backpacks for Peace program.
The final activity that involved our youth was the World Cafe. The purpose of the World Cafe was to have the young people divide up into smaller groups and spend 15 minutes each on three questions involving peace and community building. Our youth participated in this activity simultaneously with the Minnesota students. After each question’s discussion, the individual groups had to agree on one idea that could be shared later to everyone. These ideas would be transformed into themes that would become actionable initiatives.

Here is a candid moment with some of our youth.
Here are the responses (edited for clarity) from our youth that were emailed to youthrive to be shared with the Minnesota students and we hope to receive theirs soon to learn more about each others challenges and perspectives.
1) What does a peaceful environment in a community or school look like to you?
A peaceful environment in a community or school means a lot to us in Liberia. The most important aspect is development, because whenever peace exists there must be development such as quality schools, job opportunities, etc. 

2) Think about your own community or school… What kind of things have happened that wouldn’t be described as “peaceful”?

A lot of things happen in our community and schools that would not be considered peaceful due to a lack of well-trained security officers, equitable justice, etc. For example, during the EBOLA crisis, some youth were killed by military personnel in the West Point community (a large slum) in Monrovia, and since then nothing has been done about this incident.
3) Think about what was said in Question 2… What kind of things can you do to take action in making your community or school more peaceful?
The Liberian youth are appealing to the world to help train the security, so that they will be able to protect the people and the entire nation. The youth are also pleading to get support in education and vocation training, because when you are engaged in any good thing this will help young people to be more focused with school and work.
The refreshments being served in this photo was organized and prepared by our own volunteer Princess Fomba. UDS provided sandwiches and soft drinks to everyone present.
In regards to their response in question 3, UDS is active in addressing their plea by offering scholarships and providing vocational training opportunities such as our Backpacks for Peace and automotive apprenticeship program for mechanics and drivers. However, we like to work with our youth more in seeing how they can find ways to respond to these concerns.
At the end of the program in Liberia, our youth created two groups–young ladies and young men–and each sang a song to Thank UDS for their participation in the forum.
In reflecting on this most memorable day, our youth expressed their interest in starting a group that would fall under Uniting Distant Stars. They exchanged numbers with each other, so they can plan a time to meet. We will support them as they move forward with any plans in making this a reality. Also, they stressed the importance of being involved in this forum or similar programs, because it was an enriched educational experience that is currently not offered in their schools.

Here are some youth expressing their joy at the end of our involvement in the forum.
We want to end this post by giving a much deserved Thank You to the UDS organizing team lead by Kelvin Fomba in Liberia and our donors in the United States and Denmark; youthrive’s staff–Maddy Wegner, Donna Cook, Callie Aguilar, Anne Parish, and their youth trainers–Malika Musa and Kevin Nguyen; and the Nobel Peace Prize Forum tech team including Mark Holterhaus and Adam Davis-McGee for making this event possible for our youth in Liberia!

Before you go…here are some special videos from our youth that were taped after the forum.

  
UDS girls and young women created this Thank You song for Uniting Distant Stars.
  
UDS boys and young men created this Thank You song for Sundance Family Foundation, who gave the $3,000 grant for the Backpacks for Peace Service Learning Project.

Launched Backpacks for Peace Service Learning Project on 02/23/15

There is nothing better than seeing an idea become a reality! After tireless hours of planning and fundraising by our teams in Liberia and the U.S., we launched the Backpacks for Peace Service Learning Project on Monday, February 23, 2015. We have embarked on a three-month training program that will teach 20 youth in Liberia from ages 12 to 20 how to:

  1. Operate and maintain a treadle sewing machine
  2. Transform recycled material into backpacks that are needed by Liberian students
  3. Cultivate innovation with limited resources
  4. Build relationships beyond personal and national borders
 
 Video of the students practicing their pedaling during the first week of the program.

Below are pictures of the first week of this training program. The main focus was to teach our students how to properly operate the sewing machines, because precision in pedaling minimizes the breakage of needles and thread. The second objective was to teach the initial stage of production, which is preparing the plastic.

Photos of the first day of the youth practicing to pedal the sewing machine. We offer two training sessions, one morning and one in the afternoon.

 These three photos show the steps 1, 2 and 3 of the backpack production. The photo on the left shows the students washing the plastic to ensure it is clean. The middle photo shows the students packing the plastic in groups to dry it . The photo on the right shows the students hanging the sewn strips of plastic on the line to finish the drying, before they are joined together to create the “fabric” for making the backpacks.

Backpacks for Peace Sponsors:

  • Sundance Family Foundation, based in Minnesota, gave a $3,000 grant. 
  • African Dream Academy supplies the recycled plastic and Liberia Partner.
  • Uniting Distant Stars donors contributed $1,260 for this project.

Along with the Backpacks for Peace project, our 20 young trainees and 30 more Liberian youth will participate via Google Hangout in the Nobel Peace Prize Youth Forum on March 6. 2015, at Augsburg College in Minnesota. This forum will showcase our Backpacks for Peace project along with the other great service learning projects developed by youth groups in Minnesota.

Our youth will be involved in the forum for about three hours during the morning session, due to a six-hour difference between Liberia and Minnesota. Take a look at what happened last year during this program to connect youth on both sides of the Atlantic in a virtual environment. This year we are taking a more active role and will participate by:

  1. Listening to a speech by Leiv Sydnes of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (2013 Nobel Laurette)
  2. Asking one question of Leiv Sydnes.
  3. Joining the World Cafe discussion that focuses on three questions about peace building in their communities and schools that can be turned into actionable initiatives.

This year Uniting Distant Stars will be the host for the forum in Liberia. We had a successful first test of the Google Hangout On Air platform with the much appreciated assistance from the forum tech crew this past week. Also, we raised $385 in four days for the March 6 activities that will be used to provide refreshments for the participants as well as logistical needs (projector, generator, etc) to ensure a proper connection.

The photo on right is from the 2014 NPPYF with our co-hosts iLab Liberia. Photo on left is from the January 2015 meet & greet Google Hangout with the young cabinet members of youthrive.

youthrive is the producer of the Nobel Peace Prize Youth Forum and a Minnesota Partner organization for Uniting Distant Stars.

Finally, another important announcement: We are now registered as a non-profit in Liberia and anticipate that our programs will be accredited through the Ministry of Education by the end of March 2015. This was a necessary step to show our dedication to providing innovative youth-focused educational programing in Liberia.

We extend our heartfelt Thanks to all our sponsors and donors, who have graciously contributed to these projects!

Backpacks for Peace: Project for Learning and Giving

In the spirit of this season of giving, we welcome your contribution to inspire 20 youth in making 300 Backpacks for Peace through our innovative training program. The cost of making a backpack is approximately $10, so a generous gift of $50 will get us that much closer to our goal. For the second year in the row, Uniting Distant Stars will invite some of Liberia’s promising young men and women leaders to participate in the March 6, 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Forum Youth Festival organized by youthrive, a Minnesota-based non-profit.

Three Liberian youth modeling our backpacks in each color–white, blue and red
The Backpacks for Peace project will instill peace building within the community and re-spark their creative flame by using recycled plastic to make the backpacks.  The first phase of the program focused on teaching four trainees on how to sew the backpacks and care for the sewing machines as future trainers of this program. The goal of the first phase was to make 250 backpacks to be given to the students at our adopt-a-school program as part of our 4th Annual School Supply Drive.

Video shows launch of our first phase of this project on 09/26/14; narrated by Kelvin Fomba, UDS Co-founder and Country Director.

Twenty young men and women from primary to post-secondary education will launch the second phase of our backpack training program the beginning of January 2015 by making 300 bags that they will give to the beneficiaries of the Straight From the Heart Center in Liberia. This center was founded by Agnes Fallah Kamara-Umunna to provide a space for rehabilitation, reintegration, and reconciliation for youth who were on all sides of Liberia’s Civil War. Agnes is the author of the book “And Peace Still Did Not Come: A Memoir of Reconciliation”.

Photos: Left is project team lead and professional tailor Charles Mamba sitting at his machine on left that he has donated for this project. Next two photos show three of the four trainees.
We have already raised $590 towards our goal of $3,000 to buy four more sewing machines and the supplies such as zippers and thread, to make 300 backpacks. Our partner—African Dream Academy—has been donating the recycled plastic drinking water sachets, the primary material for the backpacks.

No
Items
Qty
Unit Cost
Total Cost
1
Machine
4 each
190 USD
760 USD
2
Zippers
600 yards
2 USD
1,200 USD
3
Thread
3 cartons
50 USD
150 USD
4
Scissors  
5 each
10 USD
50 USD
5
Machine needles
3 packets
25 USD
75 USD
6
Machine oil
8 bottles
4 USD
32 USD
7
Cloth Lining
3 rolls
50 USD
150 USD
       8
Participant Benefits
583 USD
TOTAL
3.000 USD

Your contribution is not only tax-deductible; it is also developing a sustainable youth training program that teaches life-long skills in sewing and marketing a product needed by many Liberian youth. The need for rebuilding from the Liberian Civil War is still relevan, and it is even more urgent now due to the Ebola epidemic that recently devastated many families in Liberia.

Our team has been working hard and made nearly 200 backpacks when this photo was taken.
Please support our Backpacks for Peace service learning project with a donation by PayPal or by check to Uniting Distant Stars, Inc. and mail to:

Uniting Distant Stars, Inc.
4010 Lawndale LN N
Plymouth, MN 55446

Thank You For Your Generous Support

Liberian Youth Virtually Connect With Peers in Minnesota

March 7 was a very exciting day for our small and humble organization. We had been invited by youthrive, a Minnesota-based organization, on January 17, to have Liberian students participate in the Nobel Peace Prize Forum Youth Festival (NPPF) at Augsburg College via Google+ Hangout Connected Classrooms. We extended this opportunity to iLab Liberia since they had high-speed internet and the ideal space to hold this event. The featured speaker for the NPPF’s morning session was Liberia’s 2011 Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee, who has presented several times to Minnesotan youth.

Liberian youth at iLab in Sinkor, Liberia, watching Nobel Laureate share her story at Augsburg College in Minnesota via Google Hangout. (Photo by Rodney Johnson)
Uniting Distant Stars (UDS) and iLab Liberia co-hosted this event, and each organization invited youth to participate. We had nearly 50 students from various elementary and high schools, and University of Liberia. The program lasted about two hours and started at 9:30AM (CST) in Minnesota; 3:30PM (GMT) in Liberia.

Luther Jeke of iLab Liberia talking with the youth. (Photo by Rodney Johnson)
This was NPPF’s first year of using Google+ Hangout, so two tests were conducted earlier in the week that was coordinated by Edwin Irwin from youthrive and Mark Holterhaus from the NPPF team. The first test was on Tuesday and it took a few minutes before we could connect Liberia on hangout. From this test, Teemu Ropponen, iLab’s Executive Director, assessed what was needed to ensure the best connection. He and his team hooked up one computer to a projector for the students to view the activities in Minnesota and connected a video camera so the Liberian youth could be seen on the screen at Augsburg. Their efforts showed perfect results during the second test on Wednesday.

Liberia’s students waving to the camera. Youthrive’s Ed Irwin orchestrated the activities from Minnesota and cued Liberia when they would up on the screen at Augsburg. (Screen shot by Heather)
UDS Executive Director, Kelvin Fomba, quickly prepared our youth on what this event was about, because this was new territory for them. He explained that they would be participating live at this event through the internet. Most did not comprehend what he was saying, because they thought they would be just watching a video. Well once they were sitting in iLab’s conference room, they soon discovered that their presence was being acknowledged by the MCs at the forum in Minnesota. So, this was a very exciting and life changing experience for all youth.

Students watching Leymah present at Augsburg College in Minnesota. Left photo has Teemu Ropponen, iLab’s Executive Director, in the background by the wall. (Photos by Rodney Johnson)
Left shows some students taken photos with their cell phones (Photo by Rodney Johnson). Right photo shows students on the live Google feed (Screen shot by Heather).
Heather Cannon-Winkelman, UDS Executive Director, was connected privately via Hangout at Dakota County Technical College. She was co-presenting at this college later that morning for the Multicultural Student Leadership Association (MSLA) with a Liberian Student and MSLA President, Branko Saah Tambah, on Liberia and U.S. relations. She was able to see and hear the activities from both the Minnesota and Liberia sides. She took some the screen shots from her computer that are shared in this post. Interestingly, when the Russ Wood students saw her image appear on the screen, they started saying “there’s Heather.” So this made it more real for them.

Left of student watching Leymah (Photo by Rodney Johnson) and right photo of group from Heather’s perspective from her screen shot.
One of the highlights of Friday’s forum was when Leymah asked to have the lights turned off at Augsburg’s Kennedy Center. She then requested that the youth use their cell phones to light up the room. Liberia followed Leymah’s lead by turning off the lights and displaying their cell phones. Next Leymah proceeded to explain that though this room was dark, it was the young people like them that were the light. This definitely was an inspiring moment for the youth on both sides of the Atlantic.

Left are students in Liberia seeing the Kennedy Center illuminated by Minnesota peers’ cell phones (photo by Rodney Johnson). Right shows the Liberian students holding their cell phones (screen shot by Heather).
Once Leymah was done with her talk, the floor was opened to questions and answers. About three to four students in Minnesota were able to ask her a question. Then Liberia was given their chance to ask the last one. It was one of our scholarship students from Russ Wood, Ishmael, that represented his peers by asking her a question. His asked Leymah how could Liberian youth become peace builders. This was a great opportunity for this rising star. Ishmael, who is about 12 years old, is a creative talent who writes his own parables and songs, MC’d last month’s second annual student celebration, and recited one of his parables to the participants–ranging from 16 to early 30’s–at our September 2013 workshop on creative and innovative workshop.

Left photo is Ishmael in front of the camera waiting for his cue (photo by Rodney Johnson). Photo is Ismael asking his question to Leymah (screen shot by Heather).
After Leymah answered Ishmael’s question, she mentioned that she knows the name of his school and would visit them when she was in Liberia next. Both Uniting Distant Stars and Russ Wood Students will gladly welcome her visit.

Leymah Gbowee addressing the Minnesotan students at Augsburg’s Kennedy Center and Liberian students via Google Connected Classrooms. (Screen shot by Heather).
Since iLab provided the space, UDS brought the refreshments. Some of our youth prepared the sandwiches and ensured everyone was served. This team of youth was led by another of our scholarship students, Princess, who will be graduating this year. Her team made enough sandwiches that allowed the youth to have seconds. When the program ended, our youth helped clean-up before they left iLab’s facilities. We encourage our youth to volunteer their time and talent for such events.

Left photo is the food table. Center photo is Princess enjoying what she helped prepare. Right photo shows youth in line to get a bottle of ice cold soft drink. (Photos by Rodney Johnson).
The virtual event was a great success. Kelvin was overwhelmed by number of students who expressed their gratitude for being able to participate in such a program. If you think about, these Liberian boys, girls, young men and women were able to connect to the greater world for about two hours. This experience is something they will not forget and hopefully they can do more of in the future.

Kelvin in the background with some of our youth. (Photo by Rodney Johnson)
UDS is equally grateful for this opportunity that connected Minnesota based and Liberia based organizations together. We have many Thanks for Maddy Wegner and Edwin Irwin at youthrive for inviting us to be part of it, and also for Teemu Ropponen and Luther Jeke at iLab Liberia along with rest of their team for proving their space and expertise. This amazing accomplishment can be summed up by a quote from Mattie Stepanek… “Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.