Projects

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CURRENT PROJECTS AND PROGRAMS

Scholarships:

In 2011, Uniting Distant Stars (UDS) began providing scholarships to two students as our flagship program. During the 2014/2015 school year, it increased to 16 students receiving full-year scholarships in grades pre-school to twelfth attending three schools in the Monrovia area. This was made possible by growing our scholarship sponsors from one to four in 2014. We serve children and young adults eager to expand their knowledge and discover their talents. We have also provided partial scholarships to students attending short-term vocational training programs. We have a list of eligible students needing scholarships to be matched with interested sponsors.

School Supply Drives and Other Support:

In January 2012, we partnered with Russ Wood Christian Academy (Congo Town, Liberia), and began to provide Russ Wood’s 250-plus students with school supplies, textbooks, and other items to improve their education. Later that same year, we painted the exterior of the Russ Wood school. We have co-sponsored Russ Wood’s annual week-long gala program that inspired a donor to create certificates for “Most Improved” and “Most Kind” to be presented to one student for each category in grades pre-school to sixth. In 2015, City of Joy (Congo Town) and Rogma International (Paynesville) primary schools were added to the annual school supply drive.

Youth Workshops:

At UDS, we believe the future of Liberia’s economy and society lays in the hands of its youth. In our Youth Workshops, we work on shifting mindsets, instilling hope, and motivating youth to become change makers, innovators and leaders. In 2013, we held a two-day Youth Leadership Workshop on Creative and Innovative Thinking in Monrovia to inspire young Liberians to< re-think “resources” that are in their reach and how they can use them to change or improve their lives.
     

Google Hangout Youth Exchanges:

Modern technology allows for a whole new level of global connectedness. Through Google Hangout, we have had several opportunities to join classrooms or youth groups here in the U.S. with our youth in Liberia. Since 2014, our youth have virtually connected with Minnesota youth at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum Youth Festival at Ausburg College, our Minneapolis partner youthrive, and in a one-on-one Google Hangout meeting between UDS National Youth Leader, Anna Bertch, and our Liberian youth.

Backpacks for Peace:

The Backpacks for Peace service learning project gave Liberian youth the opportunity to learn about peace building while utilizing their creative abilities to transform recycled plastic into backpacks to be donated to schools or other youth groups. The first phase of the program, piloted September to December 2014, focused on teaching four trainees on how to sew 250 backpacks and care for the sewing machines as future trainers of this program. The second phase launched in February 2015 and trained 20 youth on each step of producing 150 backpacks. The third phase will be implemented in 2016 to train youth to make backpacks and how to sell them in the market to build this into a sustainable program.

Vocational Training:

Kelvin Fomba, UDS Co-Founder and Country Director, has used his talent in training and expertise auto mechanics, auto electrician, and commercial driving to teach UDS young adults what skills they need in these fields to be self-sufficient. This vocational training provides UDS young adults with practical experience to help them land jobs or start small businesses.
 

Learning Center:

UDS Learning Center opened in September 2015. It is equipped with a library, small science lab, and other learning materials. This center provides after school study classes for students attending primary to post-secondary institutions living in the surrounding community. We currently serve 40 to 50 students daily, who are needing specific resources to complete their homework assignments. In 2016, we upgraded the center by adding over 50 library books requested by students, increasing the number of tables and chairs to meet the demand, and introduced a computer lab and training program. With six computers, we started training 12 youth on how to operate a computer.
    

UDS Youth Group:

After the opening of our UDS Learning Center, the child and youth came together to form a “UDS Youth Group.” They were inspired by the PSA Video and initiatives created by our National Youth Leader Volunteer, Anna Bertch. These ambitious youth were eager to help promote UDS programs in exchange for our learning center to provide study classes. During the 2015 school supply distributions, they sang and created plays to address social concerns they are facing. In addition, some older students volunteer at the learning center by leading study classes for the little ones.
    

FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS

Recipes for Learning:

The Recipes from Liberia Cookbook will feature favorite recipes from Liberia and other West African nations that were shared by supporters. This cookbook will be sold to raise funds for educational programs benefiting youth in Liberia, who have been affected by war and the Ebola outbreak. This cookbook will also showcase photos and success stories of our youth, who have participated in our programs. The project team meets monthly to test and taste recipes to ensure they work. In 2016, we will create a sample book to show to potential sponsors and partners for publishing and distribution.
     

Emergency Preventative Kit:

In 2015, UDS partnered with a retired engineer, who has extensive experience with water purification and product development. In response to the lessons learned from the Ebola crisis and providing something that is genuinely needed in West Africa, we are currently developing a prototype product (kit) that would be largely manufactured and assembled in Liberia for use in ll parts of West Africa where diseases like Ebola, Cholera, Malaria and Typhoid occur. This kit will contain a hand-held water filtration device providing up to 300 liters per day of safe drinking water. It would also contain face masks and gloves, thermometer, disinfectant and mosquito netting for prevention and protection against the aforementioned diseases. The kit itself will be complemented by our youth-made backpack. The final product will be made in Liberia and sold and distributed to all of West Africa through several channels. We are seeking volunteers to assist in developing this product and project. Please email us at info@unitingdistantstars.com.

Vocational Training Institute:

UDS long-term goal is to open a vocational training institute that provides perfect and imperfect world application of various trades needed in Liberia’s post-conflict and post-Ebola rebuilding efforts. Students will be taught how to use traditional and recycled material to build, make, or repair items or products that will meet Liberia’s economic demands. Throughout this process, they will receive extensive training to develop marketable skills and real-time experience in their given trade(s) at our on-campus workshops or off-site contracted jobs. Our graduates will obtain employment paying a livable wage or start successful businesses.

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