Liberia: Delivering School Supplies to Rogma International

Liberia: Delivering School Supplies to Rogma International

Uniting Distant Stars supporters and volunteers continued to give children and youth in Liberia a reason to be happy with our 2015 school supply campaign. On September 13, Rogma International School in Paynesville, a suburb of Monrovia, held their back-to-school program. This was the second of series of three programs that started with City of Joy School on September 6 and ended with Russ Wood Christian Academy on October 11.

Rogma’s location required UDS to transport our team in three vehicles, because it was too far to walk and it was raining heavily. Our Liberian Co-Founder and Country Director, Kelvin Fomba, enlisted two volunteers to carry 24 UDS team members and 6 invited guests to the program.

Rogma International Staff and UDS Leaders.
Kelvin and Daniel Lloyd, UDS volunteer, delivered a huge surprise to our staff and youth group by having shirts made for the group that they paid for. UDS was making their debut in Paynesville and wanted to make our presence known as an organization serving children and youth in Liberia. The photos below show our team proudly wearing their beautiful shirts.

UDS volunteers and youth group standing outside Rogma’s school
UDS Youth Group displaying the back of their shirts.
Another highlight came from Rogma’s community when they organized a cookout, which UDS contributed $40 towards food. Each child received a bowl of Jellof (aka Jollof) Rice, a popular dish in Liberia and other West African nations. This recipe will be included in our Recipes for Learning Cookbook currently in development by our dedicated project team.

Rogma Students eating their Jellof Rice. Each student was served a bowl by volunteers.

Kelvin standing in the middle talking with children as they eat their Jellof Rice.
After eating their delicious meal, it was time to distribute supplies. Students were called up individually to receive their packet of school items. Kelvin and Moses Lahai, UDS volunteer, handed out gift packages to Rogma’s aspiring students from our Star Supporters generous donations. As shown in the four photos below, this day uplifted the hopes of children attending Rogma International School.

The program provided entertainment form children and youth. Our youth group created a play called “The Greedy Man” and it was performed by three of its members. The performance is filmed in three short video clips with our youth speaking Liberian English, which a brief summary is provided for each scene.

Scene 1: A teenage boy invites an older man to share his food. However, this older man, who happens to bring his own spoon, eats all the food without any concern for the boy. This clip features the man drinking from a mineral water from a bag. This is the plastic we use for our Backpacks for Peace project.

Scene 2:The boy’s sister, who prepared his food, instructs him to not let this greedy man eat all his food again.

Scene 3:When the teenager sees the greedy man approaching him, he quickly takes appropriate action to prevent him from eating his food.

The moral of this story was to teach young people how to share and be good to each other. This was UDS Youth Group first performance and it had Rogma’s children laughing throughout. Our youth decided to use performing arts to address social concerns facing youth in Liberia.

The program ended with UDS giving Rogma some reading textbooks, kick balls and other supplies. The reading textbooks were donated in 2012 from a supporter, who is a teacher at St.Vincent de Paul School in Minnesota. We shipped nine boxes with our annual supply drives in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Our original plan was to send all the books in one shipment, but paying $75 per box prevented us from fulfilling this goal. We definitely need help shipping the 19 remaining boxes to get these books in Liberian children’s hands. Please read our Learning Center post to learn how to help.

Kelvin sharing to Rogma’s community about the other supplies being donated to their school.

Our wonderful supporters made this program a huge success. Both parents and school staff were praising our generous donors for supporting their children’s educational needs. Please view additional photos in our Facebook album.

Rogma Students holding their gift packages of school supplies.

Uniting Distant Stars Teams in Liberia and the U.S. offer our heartfelt Thanks and Appreciation for helping the children and youth we serve!

Photos and videos taken by Rodney John, UDS Volunteer
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.
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  • 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!!!
Our youth-made backpacks are now being worn by young students in Liberia

Our youth-made backpacks are now being worn by young students in Liberia

It has been said many times “good things come for those who wait.” This clearly was evident at the Russ Wood Christian Academy’s Back to School Program held on Sunday, October 11, 2015. After a year of challenges and disruptions, the students of Russ Wood finally received their school supplies shipped in 2014 that filled the backpacks made by our youth during the 4th quarter of 2014.

Read our blog post “Miracles Do Happen” about our 2014 shipment of school supplies.

In preparation for this much anticipated day, our team in Liberia faced yet another challenge. Russ Wood increased their enrollment from 250 to 300 students. UDS fearless leader Kelvin Fomba had to adjust the supplies to accommodate the extra 50 students and use plastic bags to package them since we had only 250 backpacks. Saturday, October 10, he organized the
UDS volunteers to sort the supplies and fill the backpacks/bags for each student. This was a day-long endeavor.

UDS Volunteers sorting supplies for 300 students at Russ Wood Christian Academy.
Three UDS volunteers filling our youth-made backpacks with school supplies.
Note: We plan to restart production of the backpacks once the rainy season subsides.

The rest of this post is a detailed report (lightly edited) from our young correspondent and photographer Rodney Johnson, who shares the highlights of the day.

Yesterday was another wonderful and exciting day at the back to school program for Russ Wood Christian Academy in Torpkah Camp, Old Road Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia. The program started at around 1:30 pm GMT. The program began with Russ Wood students giving contributions by singing songs, reading some favorite bible verses and poems. This was followed by the Uniting Distant Stars Youth Group, who gave their contribution by doing a drama entitled “Say No to Bribes in School.”

UDS Youth Group performing their play “Say No to Bribes in School.”

It was indeed an educative play with lots of laughter, and everyone being fully entertained by our youth group’s performance. The play was about some students who don’t pay attention in school when the teacher is
giving lessons. These students can be busy with their phones, playing cards, and chatting with each other while class is in session. Even when the teacher is conducting an examination, these students sit doing
nothing at all. When the examination time is over, they only write their names and the subject title on their answer sheets before presenting it to the teacher. This results in these students, who did not participate in class or complete their studies at home, to meet the teacher in private and pay some amount of money for their grades.

In this particular performance, there was a teacher, who had a habit of receiving bribes from some students in return for grades. Other students were not happy with this teacher for always taking bribes from students. So they decided to take the matter to the principal of the school. The principal asked for the teacher’s name and then sent for him to come to his office. The principal asked the teacher if what the students were saying was true or not. The teacher denied it and said he did not know what the students were talking about. However, the principal continued to receive numerous complaints from the students about the same teacher, so he the prepared a letter of dismissal.

The principal again called the teacher to his office and presented the letter to him. The principal stressed he never wanted to see him anymore, because his school is well known and has a good reputation. Therefore, he will not allow one teacher to tarnish his school’s image. This skit also encouraged other students to not act like the students in the play, who bribe teachers for grades. Also, they admonished teachers who are in the habit of receiving bribes from students for grades and asked them to please stop what they are doing. They added that this is not helping our students, because it will not bring about the positive changes we want from Liberia’s youth to make in their respective homes, surrounding environment, and the nation as a whole. Everyone was very pleased with this play and gave the UDS youth a round of applause.

Russ Wood’s MC for Russ Wood’s Back to School Program.

The MC of the program on behalf of the principal, teachers, parents and guardians extended their thanks and appreciation to the Uniting Distant Stars youth, staff and executives for their hard work in forming this youth group. He stated this is what the nation needs today in fostering unity among students and also encouraging them to be creative. The MC introduced the UDS co-founder and country director, Kelvin Fomba, who was the guest speaker of the program to give his remarks. Kelvin started by thanking the youth for their wonderful performance and how they make him fill proud of having them as young UDS volunteers willing to bring about the change that is needed in the nation.  Kelvin also encouraged these young people to continue with their good work, because it will make them to become brighter stars in the future.

Kelvin sharing the story in now the backpacks were made by our youth.

He continued by thanking the teachers, who are spending countess hours, helping these young children to become the nation’s builders of tomorrow. He repeated the message from the youth group’s performance to any teacher who might take bribes from students to relinquish this habit. He stressed this behavior will lead students to steal or into other bad activities to obtain money to pay for grades.

Kelvin next addressed the parents and guardians by thanking them for their wonderful and brilliant children. He said that if we are to succeed in building up these youth to become prosperous in life, we need their support. He then stated in order for these young children to achieve their goals, the parents and guardians need to play their part. This includes encouraging their children to value education more than silver or gold, because when you educate a child you educate a whole nation. He pleaded with them to stop sending their children to sell market goods
on the street when school is in session or during study time. He also asked if they could put their children’s homework time before doing house work.

Parents and guardians sitting with their children during the program.
Kelvin ended his remarks by informing the parents and guardians of the opening of the UDS Learning Center and encouraged them to send their children for study classes organized by the UDS youth. The youth are voluntarily helping to teach young children on how to use these materials donated by our UDS counterparts in the USA. After Mr. Fomba’s remarks, the backpacks and some other school materials was presented to the students of Russ Wood Christian Academy by the UDS team. Everyone was happy and the parents admired the handy work of our youth when they saw the backpacks. Other people requested to get backpacks for their own children, who were not attending Russ Wood.

This little girl received her red backpack filled with school supplies.
This boy’s smiles shows his delight in receiving his backpack filled with school supplies.

This boy is holding his new backpack filled with school supplies with care.

This little girl is delighted to receive her backpack filled with school supplies.

The program ended with Russ Wood students, UDS volunteers and UDS youth group taking general group photos.

Russ Wood Students’ holding holding up their gifts.
Here is a wider view of Russ Wood’s Students showing their gifts.
Some Russ Wood Students wearing their backpacks as they go home.
Two girls standing outside Russ Wood school at the close of the program.
Thanks to everyone with Uniting Distant Stars in Liberia and the United States of America in making sure this program was a huge success. Let’s not forget our sponsors and donors all around the world for their support. If it hadn’t been for all of you, we couldn’t have reached this far.

Our fabulous UDS Youth Group (light blue shirts) and Volunteers (dark blue shirts) celebrating a successful day.
Kelvin Fomba squatting in the middle of his hard working and dedicated team.

Thanks again Rodney for your fabulous report! If you like to see more photos of all three back to school programs for City of Joy, Rogma International, and Russ Wood Christian Academy, please view our Facebook Album (click here).

As you can see, our youth in Liberia are taking an active role with our programs. They receive their encouragement and inspiration from you as one of our Star Supporters! Please feel honored in what you have helped accomplish in Liberia with our youth. Thank you for your generosity and kindness!