How are you today? We hope you found ways to adapt to the new normal as we move forward with 2020. It seems like things change daily and we learn to adjust as needed. Again, your dedication to Liberian Youth allows UDS to be agile during these trying times. Thank you again for including UDS in your charitable giving!
In Liberia, they are trying to balance managing the cases as they increase with removing some of the restrictions. Let’s look at the current numbers for COVID-19 as August 9: 1,234confirmed cases, 79 people who have died, 714 people recovered, and 267 cases per million people. Again, testing is limited, so these numbers might not reflect reality.
The Government of Liberia announced that the 6th to 11th graders will return on August 10 to resume the 2019/2020 school year. The year will end in December. There is no return of the preschoolers to 5th graders. All schools are waiting on any guidance if we can promote them from what they accomplished during the time they attended. Therefore, the academic year will start either end of December or early January.
Also, universities and vocational training schools are reopening. We have a tentative date of September 15 to start our fourth vocational training cohort. Currently, our tailoring instructor and graduates are making masks for the 6th and 7th graders and the new vocational training students. Additionally, We will be adding extra handwashing stations and taking their temperatures before entering the center. Keeping all students safe is our number priority.
On Saturday, June 6, 2020, the UDS Board and Co-Founders met to discuss this navigation into the new normal. We weighed out the options for your vocational training students, who would have graduated on April 13, 2020.
We quickly determined the best course of action was to give them their diplomas without a ceremony.
By now, most of us have seen the photos and videos of graduates around the world forgoing their ceremonies for being celebrated at home or in some other creative fashion. For UDS leadership, it made sense to give them their diplomas so they can start their career or entrepreneurship paths.
On Wednesday, June 10, the UDS Instructors, staff and Students attended a general meeting to discuss the plan for their graduation. They provided their input and asked if they could have their photo in their gown added to their diploma. What a simple request that can be granted.
The class of 2019/2020 has about 80 students ready to graduate. About half need to pay their tuition with balances from $5 to $20. They asked to give them until the end of June to settle their arrears. Everyone agreed to these terms.
The graduation plan is to rent two to three gowns for the students’ diploma photos. The diplomas will be printed and placed in a cover with the UDS logo and graduating class info. Each student will be notified of the time when they can pick up their diplomas.
Even though your students hoped to have a commencement ceremony, they are overjoyed with being able to receive their diplomas. In fact, the next day one of your students in both computer and hotel management courses shared her school pride on Facebook. Fanta Konneh gave us permission to share her posts with you.
Since 2011, Uniting Distant Stars partnered with generous sponsors to provide academic scholarships in primary and secondary level education. As we move forward to 2019, we are excited to announce the Graduation of Deborah Tweah! She is our fourth graduate from this program with the first in 2014 and the other two in 2016.
Deborah joined UDS in 2015 as one of the participants in the Backpacks for Peace Service Learning Project. While she was learning how to sew backpacks, she shared her struggle in finding support to return to school. Based on her efforts in the backpacks project, she received a sponsor to see her through graduation.
On Saturday, August 17, 2019, Deborah received her diploma from the Bethlehem Baptist School, a 5-minute walking distance from our school. Not only did she successfully pass the 12th grade but she also passed her national exam.
Sadly, Deborah did not have any family to attend her graduation. So, UDS leadership and scholarship students showed up to support her on this special day. Also, they held a celebration party at the center after the commencement ceremony. She felt honored to receive such a gift that she gave UDS Co-Founder & Director, Kelvin Fomba her gown and Brother Daniel Lloyd her cap (he helped facilitate the scholarship program when working with one of the partnership schools).
Thank you to Deborah’s sponsor for allowing her to graduate from high school! We hope that she can share her own story in a future article.
At the Uniting Distant Stars, we believe that your positive action combined with positive thinking, your results will definitely be a success.
Ooooh yeah, it’s remarkable to think that our past year in UDS has come to an end. But let’s take a moment to think about the time we spent together. It was full of twists and turns and also marked by countless challenges to overcome whether they were academic, sports, politics or personal.
It is a fantastic achievement for each and every one of us to have made it, and I am proud to share this moment with all of you. The truth is that we haven’t made it here on our own effort alone.
On behalf of the class of 2018/2019, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge those who help us through to where we are today. First, to our hardworking administration here and our Godly Board Members of UDS in the U.S. for their dedication to the vulnerable youth, children and the needy to ensure that we become successful, and live a good life through the tradition of excellence and hard work that we may have a brighter future.
In this regard, we say thanks and appreciation again to the UDS Family all around the world for their relentless humanitarian support towards the development of our vulnerable youth in Africa. We also thank them again for training hundreds of youth, adults, and children in Liberia for them to be part of nation-building.
To my fellow graduates! We must be patient and be sincere to our masters and clients so we can enjoy the next phase of our lives in order for us to achieve our dreams. Special thanks to our hardworking Instructors for they taught us the values that we need in order for us to face our future without fear.
I will be remiss if I don’t recognize the best humanitarians of our time, they are also the twin founders of the UDS, they have done a lot to change the negative face and mindset of Africans into positivity. These legends are Mr. Kelvin S. Fomba and Miss Heather Cannon. We say thank you!
Information about Abel: He is 22 years old and dropped out of high school at grade 11 due to no financial support. He lived in Southern Sierra Leone before coming to Liberia. He graduated from UDS Vocational Training Center on April 13 with a Diploma in Plumbing. His long term goals include starting his own company. In the short term, he plans to gain experience through contract jobs. He currently received a plumbing opportunity in Paynesville, Liberia.
Your investment in Liberian Youth pays a dividend of marketable talent ready to make a difference in their nation. We’d like to introduce you to two graduates whose lives were transformed because of you.
Viola Blaine is one of six who graduated with a Diploma in Cosmetology on April 13, 2019 at the Uniting Distant Stars Vocational Training Center (UDSVTC) in Liberia. She is 40 years old and a mom of three children: 16-year-old boy (lives in Ghana), 14-year-old boy, and 11-year-old girl (both live with Viola).
She left Liberia during the civil war in 1996 and became a refugee in Ghana. During that time she took advantage of the United Nations educational programs including graduating from high school, receiving a certificate in cosmetology, and attending a one-month business school. This gave her the opportunity to start plaiting hair and giving pedicures to be self-sufficient.
Viola returned to Liberia in 2012 and continued to work as a hairdresser. In 2018, she was praying to God to find a school to gain more knowledge. While listening to her favorite station, Radio Advent, she heard Kelvin Fomba (UDS Co-Founder & Director) and others talk about UDSVTC. She took down the phone numbers and called the school. She was invited to the campus to complete the admissions form and to attend orientation.
She shared how much she appreciated Kelvin’s encouragement and stressed the importance of learning skills that lead to self-employment. She expressed her gratitude for all the support given to her to achieve her goal of graduating from our program.
Viola shared how UDS provided the advanced skills in manicures, pedicures, facials and much more that she was seeking. She now holds a diploma, and she is looking for a small shop where she can launch her salon business. She currently does home visits to plait hair, and she hopes to continue this service once she finds someone to work with her at the shop.
Quote from Viola: “Thanks go to Mr. Kelvin Fomba from the UDSVTC school where I came from with a diploma in cosmetology. This will provide a good opportunity for me to do my own business. Uniting Distant Stars Vocational Training Center is one of the best schools you can go and get good vocational skills. Thanks to all of you for the knowledge I received!“
Anthony Bombo Kpehe Jr. graduated with a Diploma in Computer. He is 27 years old and the father of one young son. He is also a Freshman at the University of Liberia and is focused on an Economic Major and Management Minor.
Anthony’s shares his journey to UDSVTC: “After being a college drop out in 2013 from the A.M.E. Zion University, I struggled with finding financial support to continue my academic sojourn, I was left with no option but to do things that I could sustain myself until the appropriate time came for me to go to school or for me to enter the University of Liberia.
One day in 2017 while I was sitting at home, I received information about a newly opened vocational school located on the Old Road. So, I thought wisely to go and see their information sheet. When I got there, I met my sister Roseline who told me that the school had a scholarship.
Unfortunately, I went late to make an inquiry to the school and was unable to be part of the first graduating class. I was told to wait for the next year which I did. Today, I am proud to be a graduate of the Uniting Distant Stars Vocational Training Center. But before then I was judging myself of what to do when I was given the opportunity to attend the school. So I said to myself since I was studying Economics in college, then I will do computers because it is the future. We in Liberia will depend on them so I will learn computers. This was how my computer studies came about. To my supporters please continue your hard work for UDS and God will richly bless you.”
Anthony hopes to become the Finance Minister or Central Bank Governor and plans to become a computer expert. He will use his skills to create an IT network system that promotes transparency and prevents corruption within Liberia.