International UDS Board Meeting

International UDS Board Meeting

This morning, an international UDS board meeting was held. Kelvin Fomba, along with Godfrey Solomon and Roseline Sonday shared the successes as well as the current obstacles at hand in Liberia with board UDS members on the American end (via Google Hangout).

Kelvin brought to our attention the need for more materials for some of our vocational training courses like Cosmetology and Plumbing/Electricity. Some of the skills being taught, like braiding in Cosmetology, require specialized tools (i.e. mannequin heads) in order to best teach the techniques at hand. Because more and more students have been enrolling in these courses, a need has developed for more training supplies. Though these are real concerns to address, we are also so thrilled for the growth UDS has experienced in such a short time! There was talk of shipping donated supplies from the U.S. to Liberia, but due to the risks associated with trans-Atlantic shipping, and cost of transport, we are now turning our focus toward fundraising efforts on the U.S. side. Then, the materials can be bought in Liberia, which also benefits the local economy.

There are some youth in Liberia that are interested in taking classes at UDS, but who cannot afford the $75 registration fee associated (this includes $20 for the uniform and ID, as well as the cost for basic teaching materials). On a situation to situation basis, Kelvin has been accepting some of these youth anyway, and has had them doing volunteer work (such as janitorial and security) to compensate for the cost of their classes. We hope our fundraising efforts, which are currently being constructed, will help to resolve this matter as well.

Below are photos from today’s meeting:


Cynthia Asante (far left), Kelvin Fomba with Godfrey Solomon and Roseline Sonday (middle), and Anna Bertch (far right) all called in via Google Hangout.


Adam Pederson (far left), Miriam Monono (middle left), Philip Kaleewoun II (middle right), Dianne Anastos (far right), and Heather Cannon-Winkleman (not pictured) met in Minnesota.

We thank you for being our Star Supporter; it’s an honor to have you walk this journey right along with us!

Gratefully,

Anna Bertch, Youth Board Member

“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.

Meeting UDS Kids via Google-Hangout

REMARKS BY TEEN YOUTH VOLUNTEER, ANNA BERTCH:
Foreign countries, especially the people in them, can sometimes feel unreachable to American teenagers like me.  We read about the world in school… But, there just isn’t life in a textbook.  There is such a great disconnect between an individual looking at a picture, and the actual person inside the photo.  It’s one thing to hear about children who’ve been orphaned from diseases (like ebola), and another thing entirely to be able to talk to them.

Thanks to modern technology (Google Hangout, specifically), I had the opportunity to meet the Liberian children I’d recently volunteered to support through Uniting Distant Stars. We were able to establish a live-video connection, and for the first time, I was able to see their smiling faces in a setting far more personal than a photograph.

Initially, there was some degree of difficulty connecting to the internet on the Liberian end, but after a choppy start, we finally could see each other and everyone broke out into grins and applause.  

Prior to the meeting, the UDS-supported youth formulated 5 questions to ask me, and I brought 5 of my own for them. One of the things I asked was, “What are your dreams for the future? What/where do you want to be?” And their responses were not much different than had I asked the question in an American school: “doctor,” “teacher,” “writer,” “mechanic,” etc.. Their eyes were lit with hope and it became obvious to me why Uniting Distant Stars does the work it does.

Those sweet students became extremely real to me after the meeting and the need to help and uplift them became even more evident.  Inspired, I decided to create a “PSA” (Public Service Announcement) in their honor.  

It is an incredible thing to love and feel loved by individuals all the way on the other side of the globe. I will never forget the feeling of gratitude I had immediately following our meeting, not only for the luxuries and abundance which became apparent in my own life, but also for the opportunity to touch lives which used to feel unreachable. The impact has been mutual; their smiles, words, and impressions have left an unfadable mark on my heart.

Meeting UDS Kids via Google-Hangout

Meeting UDS Kids via Google-Hangout

REMARKS BY TEEN YOUTH VOLUNTEER, ANNA BERTCH:
Foreign countries, especially the people in them, can sometimes feel unreachable to American teenagers like me.  We read about the world in school… But, there just isn’t life in a textbook.  There is such a great disconnect between an individual looking at a picture, and the actual person inside the photo.  It’s one thing to hear about children who’ve been orphaned from diseases (like ebola), and another thing entirely to be able to talk to them.

Thanks to modern technology (Google Hangout, specifically), I had the opportunity to meet the Liberian children I’d recently volunteered to support through Uniting Distant Stars. We were able to establish a live-video connection, and for the first time, I was able to see their smiling faces in a setting far more personal than a photograph.

Initially, there was some degree of difficulty connecting to the internet on the Liberian end, but after a choppy start, we finally could see each other and everyone broke out into grins and applause.  

Prior to the meeting, the UDS-supported youth formulated 5 questions to ask me, and I brought 5 of my own for them. One of the things I asked was, “What are your dreams for the future? What/where do you want to be?” And their responses were not much different than had I asked the question in an American school: “doctor,” “teacher,” “writer,” “mechanic,” etc.. Their eyes were lit with hope and it became obvious to me why Uniting Distant Stars does the work it does.

Those sweet students became extremely real to me after the meeting and the need to help and uplift them became even more evident.  Inspired, I decided to create a “PSA” (Public Service Announcement) in their honor.  

It is an incredible thing to love and feel loved by individuals all the way on the other side of the globe. I will never forget the feeling of gratitude I had immediately following our meeting, not only for the luxuries and abundance which became apparent in my own life, but also for the opportunity to touch lives which used to feel unreachable. The impact has been mutual; their smiles, words, and impressions have left an unfadable mark on my heart.

Enjoy a Tour of the UDS Learning Center in Liberia

Enjoy a Tour of the UDS Learning Center in Liberia

What an exciting week! Thursday, October 15, our little learning center was visited and utilized by 35 students of all ages representing different schools in the community. Students either participated in one of the study classes covering subjects like math and
phonics or completed their daily homework assignments. This post will give you a tour of our learning center that started with a few donated library books and microscope. Please enjoy a cup of coffee or tea as we warm your heart with these captivating photos of Liberia’s studious young boys, girls, men and women taking full advantage of our facility. These beautiful photos were taken by our fabulous volunteer Rodney
Johnson.

Welcome to the Uniting Distant Stars Learning Center Pictorial Tour!

We will start our tour on the porch where we hold our Backpacks for Peace training. Here you will find one young boy focused intently on his
homework while a few students behind him attend a study class run by one of our youth leaders.

Now as you enter through the front door, you will find students sitting on a sofa along the left side of the room doing their homework.

This view is along the same wall, but looking towards the front door. Each student finds their particular space to work on homework. There is a constant flow of young people coming to the center after school. If you look toward the front door, you will find another study group run by a second youth leader.

Here is one happy little boy enjoying the books he selected from the library. Behind him is another view of the study class by the front door with students of varying ages.

Let’s stop and say Hi to Rodney, who was busy posting these photos on his Facebook page. He is our IT guy, who has fixed one of three desktop
computers donated early this year by Agnes Fallah Kamara, founder of the Straight From the Heart Center. We hope he can get the other two working, so he can start teaching the highly demanded basic computing
skills class in our center.

Kelvin Fomba, UDS Co-Founder and Country Director, is helping these four young boys with their homework. Kelvin wears many hats with UDS from training auto mechanics to conducting study classes with our younger students.

This larger room might look familiar to you. This is
where we hosted the Google Hangout with 50 Liberian youth for the Nobel Peace Prize Youth Forum at Augsburg College in Minnesota this past March. The
white sheet on the wall is the projection screen for showing inspirational videos like the one created and published (click here)by our amazing youth leader volunteer Anna in Minnesota. Now let’s enter though the door at the left of the screen to complete our tour.

As you step into this room, you will see it contains the library filled with books and the microscope, and also serves as a small classroom.
Kelvin and a third youth leader are teaching a study class to another eager group of students.

As you turn to the other side of the room, you will find two youth scanning the bookshelves of the library while other students are busy with their homework at the table. This photo is priceless, because it shows how invaluable a library is to our students regardless of its size. We are extremely grateful to provide such a service for Liberia’s aspiring youth.

We hope you enjoyed the tour of our learning center and thank you for taking the time to view each photo and caption. Uniting Distant Stars is dedicated to the education of Liberia’s young people and this learning center is important part of our mission.

If you are interested in doing more to help improve this center for our youth in Liberia, there are many ways you can support this initiative.
  • Donate by credit card by clicking the button below

  • or by check at:

Uniting Distant Stars

4010 Lawndale LN N

Plymouth, MN 55446

  • Select Uniting Distant Stars as part of company’s annual United Way Campaign. One of our sustaining supporters, an employee of the University of Minnesota, added UDS to their annual giving last year and is doing it again this year.
  • Utilize your company’s Employee Match program. Another sustaining supporter has been utilizing their company’s program since 2014.
  • Shop at AmazonSmile and 0.5% of your purchase price will be donated to Uniting Distant Stars.
(function() {var iFrame = document.createElement(‘iframe’); iFrame.style.display = ‘none’; iFrame.style.border = “none”; iFrame.width = 310; iFrame.height = 256; iFrame.setAttribute && iFrame.setAttribute(‘scrolling’, ‘no’); iFrame.setAttribute(‘frameborder’, ‘0’); setTimeout(function() {var contents = (iFrame.contentWindow) ? iFrame.contentWindow : (iFrame.contentDocument.document) ? iFrame.contentDocument.document : iFrame.contentDocument; contents.document.open(); contents.document.write(decodeURIComponent(“%3Cdiv%20id%3D%22amznCharityBannerInner%22%3E%3Ca%20href%3D%22https%3A%2F%2Fsmile.amazon.com%2Fch%2F46-3393687%22%20target%3D%22_blank%22%3E%3Cdiv%20class%3D%22text%22%20height%3D%22%22%3E%3Cdiv%20class%3D%22support-wrapper%22%3E%3Cdiv%20class%3D%22support%22%20style%3D%22font-size%3A%2025px%3B%20line-height%3A%2028px%3B%20margin-top%3A%201px%3B%20margin-bottom%3A%201px%3B%22%3ESupport%20%3Cspan%20id%3D%22charity-name%22%20style%3D%22display%3A%20inline-block%3B%22%3EUniting%20Distant%20Stars%20Inc.%3C%2Fspan%3E%3C%2Fdiv%3E%3C%2Fdiv%3E%3Cp%20class%3D%22when-shop%22%3EWhen%20you%20shop%20at%20%3Cb%3Esmile.amazon.com%2C%3C%2Fb%3E%3C%2Fp%3E%3Cp%20class%3D%22donates%22%3EAmazon%20donates.%3C%2Fp%3E%3C%2Fdiv%3E%3C%2Fa%3E%3C%2Fdiv%3E%3Cstyle%3E%23amznCharityBannerInner%7Bbackground-image%3Aurl(https%3A%2F%2Fimages-na.ssl-images-amazon.com%2Fimages%2FG%2F01%2Fx-locale%2Fpaladin%2Fcharitycentral%2Fbanner-background-image._CB309675353_.png)%3Bwidth%3A300px%3Bheight%3A250px%3Bposition%3Arelative%7D%23amznCharityBannerInner%20a%7Bdisplay%3Ablock%3Bwidth%3A100%25%3Bheight%3A100%25%3Bposition%3Arelative%3Bcolor%3A%23000%3Btext-decoration%3Anone%7D.text%7Bposition%3Aabsolute%3Btop%3A20px%3Bleft%3A15px%3Bright%3A15px%3Bbottom%3A100px%7D.support-wrapper%7Boverflow%3Ahidden%3Bmax-height%3A86px%7D.support%7Bfont-family%3AArial%2Csans%3Bfont-weight%3A700%3Bline-height%3A28px%3Bfont-size%3A25px%3Bcolor%3A%23333%3Btext-align%3Acenter%3Bmargin%3A0%3Bpadding%3A0%3Bbackground%3A0%200%7D.when-shop%7Bfont-family%3AArial%2Csans%3Bfont-size%3A15px%3Bfont-weight%3A400%3Bline-height%3A25px%3Bcolor%3A%23333%3Btext-align%3Acenter%3Bmargin%3A0%3Bpadding%3A0%3Bbackground%3A0%200%7D.donates%7Bfont-family%3AArial%2Csans%3Bfont-size%3A15px%3Bfont-weight%3A400%3Bline-height%3A21px%3Bcolor%3A%23333%3Btext-align%3Acenter%3Bmargin%3A0%3Bpadding%3A0%3Bbackground%3A0%200%7D%3C%2Fstyle%3E”)); contents.document.close(); iFrame.style.display = ‘block’;}); document.getElementById(‘amznCharityBanner’).appendChild(iFrame); })();

  • Help us ship the remaining boxes of reading textbooks and library books that have been waiting to reach the hands of students in Liberia. The photos
    below were taken in 2012 after we had received the donated textbooks from St. Vincent de Paul School in Brooklyn Park by my cousin, a teacher at the school. We have shipped nine boxes of textbooks with our annual school supply drives in 2012, 2013 and 2014. We acquired three more boxes of library books late last year. We currently have 22 boxes to ship and the price per box was $75 (this includes clearing charges)
    based on IBXpress shipping costs from 2014. The total cost to ship the 22 boxes is roughly $1,650. Although IBXpress did finally deliver our 2014 shipment of school supplies on August 6, 2015, we have not received
    any communication that they are back in operation. So, we are looking for other alternatives for shipping companies and means to reduce or eliminate the cost with our 501(c)3 status.

  

We welcome your support, encouragement, and ideas to help us improve the quality of education for students in Liberia. Please share this post with others, who can help us achieve our goals.

Thank you again for your continued dedication, generosity and kindness in uplifting Liberia’s bright young stars!!!