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:
Operate and maintain a treadle sewing machine
material into backpacks that are needed by Liberian students
Cultivate innovation with limited
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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: