The Value of Exchange of Service

The Value of Exchange of Service

Liberia’s deteriorating economy made 2019 a difficult and trying year. As inflation increased, may businesses and nonprofits folded due to rising costs. People went to work and have not been paid for months. Banks ran out of money causing international organizations like the Peace Corp to withdraw their people from the country

Throughout the year, Kelvin Fomba, Co-Founder & Director, found ways to keep things afloat by using his skills as a master mechanic. He often donates his income to support daily operations. He also uses his skills for exchange services to further our cause.

On October 30, he and another person agreed to trade deal in lieu of cash. This person wanted to help UDS but didn’t have the means. However, he had a jeep that needed major engine repairs. Kelvin had the parts needed for the job and completed the work with his mechanical students in a few days.

Uniting Distant Stars Auto Mechanic students doing major engine repair.

UDS Hair Salon

Upon completing the work, the person offered UDS his shop within a five-minute walk from our center. We moved our cosmetology department to the new location. Our team painted the exterior walls with our colors, built shelves and workstations, and purchased hair and other products. Through Kelvin’s efforts, UDS now has a hair salon as part of our social enterprise initiative. The sales from hair and products will provide an additional revenue stream. 

Uniting Distant Stars moved our cosmetology department to a shop near our center. This will be a hair salon as well to help generate funds.

As you can see in a cash-strapped economy, the barter system plays a pivotal role in helping people sustain themselves during a crisis. In this case, Kelvin provided $1,000 of work this equated to $1,800 in rent of the shop ($100 monthly rent).

In close, this gave us the means to start this small enterprise. And we hope to receive additional support to build more workstations, buy sinks for hair washing and hair dryers, and other material to make it a full salon.

Congrats Roseline Sonday! Promoted to Cosmetology Instructor

Congrats Roseline Sonday! Promoted to Cosmetology Instructor

Cultivating young leaders is a core aspect of our missionRoseline Sonday was promoted from teacher’s aide to the instructor of the cosmetology department in July. She is an experienced hairstylist and used her time as a teacher’s aide to learn how to apply facials and provide manicures and pedicures.

Her journey started with Uniting Distant Stars in 2014. She was one of four youth who piloted our backpack project from September to December 2014. In the program, students learned how to make backpacks from recycled drinking water sachets. She joined the training team of the 2015 Backpacks for Peace Service Learning Project that trained 20 youth to make the same backpacks. Later that same year, these backpacks were donated and filled with school supplies to give to young school children.

When we secured our training center in 2016, she helped with painting the exterior of the building and refurbishing the facility. She was also part of the recruitment team that same year and helped with finding youth to enroll for the first term starting February 2017. She became the student coordinator and cosmetology teacher’s aide for the 2017/2018 term. She continued both roles this term and recruited the instructor, Felton Waydiyee Fouah. Earlier in July, Felton moved to a different location, and the distance to travel made it impossible for him to continue his work UDS. Felton told Kelvin Fomba, UDS Co-Founder & Director, that Roseline was ready to be an instructor.

From left to right, top to bottom: Roseline sewing backs in 2014. She is modeling the backpack to promote 2015 Backpacks for Peace Project. She is painting the exterior wall in 2016. She is giving a manicure in 2017.

Roseline is one of our shining stars in Liberia! She is grateful for the opportunities she had with UDS, and her next goal is to attend college. She is now waiting for the results of her entrance exam to the Univerity of Liberia. Her dream is to get her college degree because she would be the first in her family. Roseline is the fifth born out of eight children, and sadly, she had one brother die this year. She is steadfast in accomplishing her goals, and we support her every step of the way.

Please join me to appreciate the UDS Family, because this is the organization that is changing my life continuously without limitation. Since I graduated from high school, June 14, 2014, UDS has been the first to employ me and helped me receive my first salary as an instructor, no matter how much it might be. I am so blessed and willing to continue working with UDS to share these blessings with others.” ~ Roseline Sonday

Congratulations to Roseline Sonday for all your great service and work for the youth of Liberia! 
Cosmetology Students Learning While Earning Money

Cosmetology Students Learning While Earning Money

It has been an exciting new year for our cosmetology course. First, Roseline Sonday, Student Coordinator & Cosmetology Teacher’s Assistant, recruited a new instructor, Felton Waydiyee Fouah, because he has a broader set of skills that will benefit our 11 students.

Mr. Fouah assessing the work of a student as she plaits (braids) the hair of her client

Secondly, our team has been working on building a cosmetology learning lab for the students to have their own space. The students have moved in even though the lab is not yet complete. The ultimate goal is to make this look like a salon. Roseline expressed her excitement for this new space: “I am so excited for our new classroom. Felton and I are doing very well with the teaching. The students are so happy with their new classroom, and also they thank us for our hard work.”

Our students working in their new learning lab

Finally, our new instructor created an opportunity for our students to earn money as they apply their skills to clients that he invited to our center.

You helped this student realize her dream!

Your investment with our cosmetology students is preparing them to provide high-quality service in hair care, facials, and manicures/pedicures. This is a helpful service for both men and women.

Congrats to our Graduating Class of 2018!

Congrats to our Graduating Class of 2018!

Your amazing and generous heart paved the way for 75 young men and women to graduate on March 24th, 2018. These dedicated students showed up each day to learn valuable skills and applied this knowledge in the classroom and on field assignments. You and our students were co-investors in this life-changing experience. You, as their valued Classroom Hero and Star Supporter, helped them cross the finish line by supplying much-needed learning materials and supplies. You are the reason for the successful completion of their desired course. You are celebrated and appreciated by each and every student. Thank you for making this important milestone possible in their lives!!!

Our students started their celebration on Thursday, March 22nd, 2018, by holding their class night at our center. This night was where they could be together one last time as a class. It was also during this evening where they received their medals.

Photo (left): Kelvin Fomba giving students their medals. Photo (right): Kelvin Fomba with two Auto Mechanic students, Winner Flomo (left) and Yasah Pewee (right).

Your students proudly wearing their medals.

The commencement ceremony started noon (GMT) on Saturday, March 24, 2018. Students and their families gathered in our hall for this momentous occasion. One of our special guests, Mr. Ericson H. York (owner of York Plaza Hotel), presented each student with their diploma. Our center was overflowing with cheers and joy from our graduates and their families.

Cover of diploma folder.

Photo (left): Some of the students’ family and friends. Photo (right): Roseline Sonday, a graduate of cosmetology and youth leader.

Mr. York presenting computer graduate and youth leader Dauda Dassin with his diploma.

Our students in their caps and gowns. Do you notice the young men are all wearing gold bow ties?

You gave our graduates a reason to smile and feel proud! Thank you!

Our heart is filled with joy for what you have accomplished for these ambitious Liberian Youth. Again, we stay Thank You, Thank You, Thank You for your support!!!

New Student Orientation

New Student Orientation

Our team in Liberia have been working double time to prepare the graduation for our 2017 students, and to recruit new students for 2018 term. On Saturday, March 17th, a new student orientation was held for 65 recruits. Our new students will start classes on March 19th, in the following courses:
  1. Catering
  2. Computers
  3. Cosmetology
  4. Electricity
  5. Hotel Management
  6. Plumbing
We will soon be starting our campaign–“Classroom Heroes Today, Community Leaders Tomorrow”–to support our new students with the necessary learning materials and supplies to complete their courses. Your investment as the “Classroom Hero Today” will help our students become Community Leaders tomorrow.
We have recruited over 260 students and will hold additional orientations as more students complete their registration. A few of our graduates have registered for two courses, to add a second trade to their curriculum vitae.