Uniting Distant Stars
In 2011, its founders, Heather Cannon and Kelvin Fomba, started projects that comprised academic scholarships and school supplies for a number of local students. Over the next few years, UDS was established as a nonprofit in Minnesota, USA. During the Ebola crisis in 2014, some of the youth came to them seeking to learn marketable skills. This was the beginning of UDS.
|Auto Mechanics||Vehicle diagnosis, maintenance, repairs, and disassembling & assembling parts.|
|Catering||Cooking Liberian and international dishes, hospitality, customer service, baking cakes and different pastries.|
|Computer||Hardware basics, computer components, typing, Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, Publisher, PowerPoint, and Access) and internet security.|
|Cosmetology||Makeup and facials, hair styling including braiding and weaving, manicure & pedicure, and Customer Service.|
|Electricity||Electrical parts and connections, various wiring methods, installing panel boxes, breakers, switches and and receptacles.|
|Event Decoration||Material and fabric basics, decoration themes for various event types including graduations to weddings. Working with customers to design|
|Hotel Management||Customer Service and Hospitality, Learn about customer service and hospitality, front desk responsibilities, housekeeping, dress code, and resolving customer issues.|
|Plumbing||Types of pipes, connections, installing pipes, bathtubs, sinks, showers, commodes, and water pumps in different types of buildings.|
|Tailoring||Operating a treadle sewing machine, cutting materials, taking measurements and fashion designing. Sewing backpacks and garments including uniforms and everyday clothing.|
As described by Kelvin:
There are no academic or age requirements. Young or old, prior education or not, students from all walks of life are welcome. For the staff, be on time, have standards, and set an example for your students. For the students, have a passion, focus, work hard and improve yourselves. We want quality graduates, not quantity of graduates.
-Kelvin Fomba, UDS
UDS began as a free program; however, with its own facilities and expanding courses, it has had to charge an affordable tuition with a generous payment plan to meet the needs of its students. Depending on its financial standing, some students are offered partial or full scholarships for attendance. As a grassroot organization, UDS listens to their youth and other students every step of the way, developing and tailoring its programs to meet their needs.
According to Heather:
The center is becoming well known in Liberia. During recruitment talk shows on radio, Kelvin is asked when UDS will start in one county or another. We hope someday we can have branches throughout the country and provide the same quality training to all youth who have the passion to learn a trade or skill.
Our students are our best advocates. Before graduation, they encourage friends and family to enroll in the next term. Some of them return to study another course, or serve in some capacity within our organization.
-Heather Cannon, UDS
Operating a non-profit in one of the poorest countries in the world has its share of challenges. There is the lack of connections with the business community and government agencies in providing suitable youth employment. Funding and maintaining its facilities and equipment are also a huge undertaking. Nevertheless, this is a worthy cause with UDS helping to prepare Liberia’s large youth population to become the next leaders of the nation.
As UDS continues this journey to equip young and old Liberians, please consider the various ways that you can help them in transforming the lives of our brothers and sisters in Liberia. Financial sponsorship, internship and job opportunities, as well as recommending UDS to those needing work skills, will greatly benefit this institution and the community.