UDS Students Certified in Permaculture Design

UDS Students Certified in Permaculture Design

Our first permaculture training successfully ended on January 16, 2019. Last week, we shared photos and information about the first five days of training. This week’s article focuses on the remaining four days of the Permaculture Design Certification Training.

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.

Celebration!

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!

You Brought “Happy” to Young Liberian Students!

You Brought “Happy” to Young Liberian Students!

Your compassion and generosity filled our new learning center with happiness. On October 29, 2016, we held the grand opening of our new Uniting Distant Stars (UDS) Learning Center in Liberia. During this program, your gift of school supplies was delivered to the remaining children, who are the grateful recipients of your service. This post highlights the fun-filled day from the words of Kelvin Fomba, UDS Co-Founder & Country Director:
You helped make this program success. Kelvin in upper left hand photo. Students performing in upper right. Lower two photos show the students attending our grand opening program. 
First of all, we’d like to say thanks to the Almighty, the entire UDS team, and support team in USA and around the world for making this program a success. The program was so great, wonderful and exciting! The hall of our learning center was so congested, some people overflowed outside to the courtyard. We had about 450 kids, 150 parents, and about 30 special guests, including UDS Liberian team in Liberia attending the program.

UDS Learning Center is near many schools and as you can see the children can walk to it. 
As you can see, our overflow of people were in the courtyard. 

The miraculous part was this: all the kids were able to receive their school supplies individually along with their refreshments of popcorn and KoolAid.  Rev. Samuel Enders, CEO & Founder of African Dream Academy, served as the keynote speaker of the program. He was so impressed about the development at the new learning center and the large population of kids filling the great hall. He also pledged $10,000 Liberian Dollars (equivalent to $120 USD) to be collected nest week.

Your brought happy to these young students as they receive their school supplies. 
These smiles are for your kindness and support for their education.
You are the reason why these young students will succeed in school this year.
Rev. Samuel Enders is wearing the red & white striped shirt. 
Video of  Rev. Samuel Enders Introduction

As you can see in the photos, kids wearing the blue and red uniforms are from City of Joy School, The students in green and yellow uniforms are from Christian Kingdom Academy. Hossana Children Foundation  and Russ Wood Christian Academy students were not in uniform. 

                                                                Listen to the students chat before the program starts.

This is the largest program UDS has ever had. The kids performed numerous dramas, songs, and jokes that had everyone clapping and laughing. Also thanks, praises, prayers were shared from the kids, youth, parents, guests, the schools’ administration to You and all our UDS family in Liberia, USA, and around the world.    

We end this post by sharing this happy day with all of you. Rev. Enders led the children in singing “If Are You Happy & You Know It,” and we invite you to sing along as you play this video.

Our heartfelt thanks to you for bringing happiness and joy to young students in Liberia!!!

Backpacks for Peace: First Month Project Report

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

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!