UDS Academy – Primary School

UDS Academy – Primary School

UDS sees educating children and youth as an investment for the future. We started our work with academic scholarships and school supply drives in 2011. We later added a library and provided after-school study programs. So, starting a primary school serving 350 children in September 2018 fit into our programming.

The UDS Academy is not like other schools in the area because it was a community effort. Our team worked around the clock with the parents in preparing and implementing the plan. What sets this school apart from others?

  1. It is a tuition-free school for pre-K to 6th-grade students.
  2. The parents buy the uniforms directly from UDS (made by our staff and students) and the funds cover the operations costs and teachers pay.
  3. The UDS library contains all the materials that meet the nation’s curriculum. 
  4. The teachers are selected for their passion to impart knowledge in students and trained to adhere to our high-level learning standards. 
  5. The students are evaluated to determine if they could meet the grade level requirements and some are moved back a grade to ensure their success. 
Students & staff making the uniforms (left). New students on the first day of school.

Since most of the vocational training courses either have their own learning labs or meet in the afternoons or evenings, our center easily accommodates the academy. Plus, some of our vocational training students benefited from our academy because they could enroll their children. 

Furthermore, the parents showed their gratitude by donating three bundles of zinc roofing to help with our building extension and some offered their skills like carpentry to complete the work. 

Now as we move forward to June 29, the UDS Academy held their closing ceremony for the academic year. Also, students graduated from Kindergarten and 6th grades. Again, the parents were involved in the closing program and asked if the graduates could receive culture clothes made from a lappa (i.e. fabric) instead of a rented cap and gown. This made perfect sense because they paid a $20 graduation fee and a new outfit for their child is priceless. 

Kindergarten 2 in their graduation clothes (left) and 6th grade in theirs (right).

Your continued support empowered our Liberian Team and the community we serve a program for over 300 young children. Thank you for helping them make this happen!

UDS Academy Students saying their prayers & teachers at the closing program. 
My Visit to UDS Liberia (Part 2 of 3)

My Visit to UDS Liberia (Part 2 of 3)

by Rita Apaloo, Board Member & Fundraising Team Chair

Rita Apaloo (right)

On my first visit, I had the opportunity to see the center being used as an elementary school for kids in the community. I observed them in their shared classroom spaces and during recess/lunch break. The youngest kids (Pre-K) met in the covered patio area that holds the hair braiding training and makeshift salon. Grades 1 – 4 are spread out in the multipurpose room with partitions and the sewing room. Grades 5 and 6 are upstairs in attic-type area. 

If you missed Part 1 of Rita’s article, click here

I later found that one-room schoolhouses are commonplace in Liberia. There are not enough schools to meet the demand. So, these schools are popping up everywhere to provide some relief and the kids don’t miss out on early learning skills. I’m not sure how effective these one-room schoolhouses are and if the government evaluates or supports them. There are no free government schools currently.

My mom and I got to speak to the older kids and answer a few questions from them. They were all respectful, insightful and full of hope. We really enjoyed learning about the school and the students. When asked what message they would like to send to current and potential donors, they were full of gratitude and wanted school supplies and any additional help. They promised to work hard, stay in school and always do their best.

6th-grade students listening to Rita’s Mom talk (Photos by Rita Apaloo).

As a board member who has been interested and passionate about the vocational training center and concerned about starting an elementary school and stretching our already limited resources, it was hard not to see the blaring needs of the kids, families and surrounding community. In addition, the kids were so excited and already seem to have formed a community through UDS. 

During my visit, it certainly was easy to see the huge economic gaps among the people. I was told by an education industry professional that “schools” have become a business in Liberia. Unfortunately, student success is not always a top priority. I also learned that more and more families are looking beyond academics and are interested in extracurricular activities outside the classroom for a rounded education. As a result, some schools focus too much on these activities than the classroom learning, putting students in a deficit when it comes to learning standards. Many students are also hopping from one school to the next, chasing the latest programming or looking for an easy pass to the next class.

All of these and more are affecting the cost of learning from preschool to high school and beyond. The result is that decent education is moving beyond the reach of more and more families and there are no free government schools to fill the gap. This leaves so many children and families without options. Too many children are put to work to help their family survive or they are left to fend for themselves to survive the harsh economic climate in the country.

Another real challenge to education is access to transportation. Community schools are important to families because they are within walking distance with little or no transportation costs. I learned that some kids have to leave the safety and comfort of home and are sent to live with extended family and friends to be closer to a school, in an effort to reduce or avoid transportation fares. 

UDS Academy is tuition-free but UDS requires families to buy uniforms from the center, made by the staff and tailoring students. UDS also sells water to students (an in-demand necessity in the city) to raise funds for school operations. In addition, tailoring is an in-demand skill as educational institutions and businesses alike are preferring uniforms over regular clothing. The trend in fashion clothing made with African fabrics is also a large and growing market for tailoring skills.

Students buying cold mineral water to drink (Photos by Rita Apaloo)

It was great to meet and chat with UDS faculty. They are passionate about the work and mission and they put student success at the center of everything they do. 

People in Liberia are constantly looking for opportunities to improve their circumstances for the better. The leadership and staff of UDS are no different. Having the center provides multiple opportunities to do more and better. I am amazed at the ingenuity of the leadership and staff in finding ways to do more with limited resources. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot but the challenges are real and the problem-solving and entrepreneurial spirit of the staff is admirable. I see my role as a Board Member to investigate, evaluate and support the efforts of UDS leadership and staff to meet the needs of their students, the community, and business, to help build better futures.
 Part 3 of Rita’s visit will be shared in our next newsletter. Please stay tuned! 

Give, Heal, Shop, & Make a Difference

Give, Heal, Shop, & Make a Difference

The end of 2016 is a few weeks away, and your faithful support this year has benefited the lives of hundreds of children and youth participating in Uniting Distant Stars (UDS) programs. Your generosity is so appreciated by these young people. One of our auto mechanic students, George Cooper, recently shared how he considers you a member of the UDS family. (Read more about George in our 2014 Annual Report).
This post is dedicated to identifying the many ways you can Give, Heal, Shop, and Make a Difference for children and youth as part of end-of-year giving plan. 
Give to our Tools for Success: Books, Computers & Sewing Machines campaign. There is still an opportunity to double your impact by donating and unlocking our matching gift. Your donation is tax-deductible and provides the resources students need the most to achieve their educational and vocational training goals.

Tools for Success: Books, Computers, Sewing Machines  | GiveMN

​Your fabulous gift will add more books to our library (left), additional computers for our lab (center) & sewing machines for our training program (right).



Heal and reduce holiday stress at True Sanctuary‘s Candlelight Healing Sessions & Sound Bath for Charity on December 3, from 6 to 8PM at Healing Elements (2290 ComoAve, St Paul, MN 55108). All proceeds from this charitable event will be shared by three youth-focused organizations: YouthLink, Patacala & Uniting Distant Stars. Please visit the Candlelight Healing Sessions & Sound Bath for Charity Event Facebook Page to review the list of healing services and register for your 30-minute session today. 
Shop at AmazonSmile for all your Christmas, Chanukah (Hanukkah), and Holiday Celebration necessities. Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to Uniting Distant Stars Inc.

Shop at our Ten Thousand Villages Event in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Thursday, December 8, 2016, from 5PM to 8PM. Please visit us at 520 Selby Ave, St. Paul, MN 55102 to shop and enjoy some tasty treats. 




















Make a Difference in a young person’s life this holiday season; your gift can be an everlasting treasure to them.
Thank you for the generosity of your heart; the children and youth of Uniting Distant Stars appreciate you beyond measure! 
Spreading the news about your generosity & Save the Date: 11/17/16

Spreading the news about your generosity & Save the Date: 11/17/16

You are the reason behind all our successes this year. We celebrate your gracious efforts everyday. Liberian children & youth are happy because of your generous heart!
Spreading the news: Uniting Distant Stars Co-Founder & Country Director, Kelvin Fomba, was interviewed on United Methodist Radio 98.7 FM in Liberia on Friday 11/11/16. He was accompanied by two of our youth leaders Roseline Sonday & Patrick Junusa Jr. and shared on what we accomplished with your help and where you will take us next. 
​Left to Right: Kelvin’s interview at radio station; Patrick at his college graduation earlier this year; & Roseline wearing one of the backpacks she helped make.
Today, a local artist painted the UDS logo on our new center. Adding our brand to our building is another way to spread the news about your unyielding support of Liberian children & youth.
Your generosity is making a different for children & youth in Liberia.
Save the date: Thank you for being a valued part of the Uniting Distant Stars Community.
Each year, generous Star Supporters like you celebrate Give to the Max Day by making your online donation on GiveMN.org. Your generosity on this makes a difference far beyond the 24-hour giving event.
​Your generosity on Give to the Max Day will provide Liberian children & youth with the “Tools for Success“. Thank you!
Please join us on November 17, 2016, for Give to the Max Day and help us continue to change lives through providing education & vocational training. 
Your donation on Give to the Max Day also may help UDS receive an additional donation of $1,000. How? On November 17, every gift made on GiveMN.org will be entered into an hourly drawing for a $1,000 GiveMN Golden Ticket to be awarded to a non-profit organization. Your gift of $10 or more could instantly turn into an $1,000! 
And, here’s the really exciting part: Two donations made on GiveMN.org during the Give to the Max Day campaign will be randomly selected to receive a $10,000 Super-Sized GiveMN Golden Ticket! 
The more gifts we generate on GiveMN.org during Give to the Max Day, the more our chances increase to receive that additional 10,000 donation. Image what we could do with $10,000 to help children & youth in Liberia.
Our goal is to raise $5,500, and you can help us reach it!
Your generous gift will buy additional copies of books for our library, 12 more used computers for our lab, and 8 sewing machines for our training program. These are the “Tools for Success” needed for Liberia’s children & youth to get the upper hand in developing knowledge and skills. 
​Your fabulous gift will add more books to our library (left), additional computers for our lab (center) & sewing machines for our training program (right).
Be sure to mark your calendar and make your gift on November 17 by visiting our campaign page “Tools for Success: Books, Computers, & Sewing Machines” at GiveMN.org.
Thank you for being our valued Shining Stars!
Building Community One Star at a Time

Building Community One Star at a Time

As a valued Star Supporter, your continued generosity inspires our team in Liberia to move forward with our vision and fulfill the dreams of Uniting Distant Stars children and youth. You are Uniting with Distant Stars in Denmark, Liberia, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates. You are part of this growing stellar community that is educating and equipping young Liberians with the knowledge and tools they need to succeed in life. You have united with other stars to form a Constellation of Possibilities for young Liberians.

You probably have not realized this, but you are a Super Star for our children and youth in Liberia. Whether you support our learning center, school supply drive, youth exchanges or sponsor a scholarship student, you are changing the lives of young Liberians for the better. Our youth are extremely grateful for your efforts!

While our focus for the last few months was on school supplies, our team in Liberia have been busy with renovations of the new learning center. As mentioned earlier, your efforts inspires our all-volunteer team in Liberia. They wrote letters to individuals and organizations in Liberia to raise funds. They received $600 that helped complete replacing the roof. UDS co-founder and country director Kelvin Fomba has been making contributions to finish the ceiling repairs, start painting in the interior, and making furniture for students. Our volunteers have helped with the cleaning and carpentry work. The following photos show the progress from the last month:

You give UDS strength! Our volunteer completing final touches of the roof. 
You give UDS resourcefulness! Kelvin (at left) resting after making tables for young children attending our study classes.
You give UDS dedication! This room is being prepared for the library.
You give UDS focus! Young volunteers replacing the ceiling tile in the main area of  the learning center. 
You give UDS motivation! Kelvin is white washing the ceiling of the main area for the study & computer classes. 
You give UDS determination! Kelvin in the back white washing the ceiling while another volunteer rests.
You give UDS hope! Young volunteers fixing the doors. 
You give UDS encouragement! Kelvin painting the walls of the main area gold.
You give children & youth in Liberia brighter future! 
You have helped build our community one star at a time. As you will see in the coming weeks, the UDS new learning center will open on October 29th. We will start with our computer & study classes, and library as we continue to complete the rest of the renovations, purchase needed equipment and supplies, and seek funders to employ Liberians as teachers, trainers and support staff for this center. 
Thank you for your compassionate service to children and youth in Liberia!
Read additional posts on how we acquired this new center and how invested our youth are in this venture of learning.