In August, you celebrated the third group of vocational training graduates Then, we restarted recruiting for the fourth cohort. Now, we hope to start classes this month.
Last month, Kelvin Fomba (Co-Founder & Director) went on the air. He also brought two alumni who work with UDS. First, Boakai Dillion, 2017/2018 graduate, works as the electrician Instructor. Second, Myrtle Stoe (2018/2019) graduate, works as the student registrar. Without a doubt, their testimonials drew in potential students.
Another exciting development deals with scholarships. One of our sustaining donors provided a $1,500 scholarship. He asked that we recruit 20 women in auto mechanics, electrician, and plumbing. Furthermore, his scholarships reduce their tuition by half. What a wonderful opportunity!
Additionally, a local Liberian organization registered five students and paid their full tuition. They plan to register more before the next term starts. We hope this leads to a lasting partnership.
Indeed, 2020 gave us many challenges but with all your support we continue forward. Thank you for your generous support!
by Rita Apaloo, Board Member & Fundraising Team Chair
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.
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.
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!
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 generous giving changes the lives of young men and women participating in our vocational training program. Marron Zor enrolled in our computer course one year ago with no prior experience. She first connected with me on Messenger in August 2018. The students were learning Microsoft Word at that time, and she explained how she enjoyed working with tables and inserting text. She then shared her excitement after passing the Microsoft word test and looked forward to the next section!
Now, fast forward to March 2019, and Marron messaged me to announce that she is graduating. She then said, “I want to appreciate all of you for giving Liberian youth vocational knowledge. I now know how to work with Excel, Access, Word, Publisher, and PowerPoint. I also thank Mr. Fomba (instructor) for his hard work. I hope to see myself in my own cafe or working at the bank.”
Your impact as a Classroom Hero gives students like Marron a chance to learn a valuable skill and gain the confidence to pursue a better future. Thank you for investing in Liberian Youth, because they are worth it!
By the way, this video features the music “Education is Better than Silver & Gold” written and sung by one of our former computer students, Enoch Daniel Tarr. Additionally, Ernest Norris Jr.created and published the video. Thank you to these aspiring young Liberian Artists!
To conclude this extraordinary year, Liberian Youth give you their heartfelt thanks!