Uniting Distant Stars

Uniting Distant Stars (UDS) is a vocational training institute in Monrovia. Since its founding in 2017, it has trained over 300 graduates in various disciplines including tailoring, plumbing, auto mechanics, catering and cosmetology. In keeping with its mission of training and equipping Liberians with the necessary skills for a better future, community, and nation, UDS continues to thrive in building its student base, community impact, and programs for a much needed workforce.

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.

Linda Foeday's Quote 04-18-21

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They started with a tailoring program where students made backpacks out of recycled drinking water sachets, and also provided auto mechanics and driver training. With its own facilities, and having registered with the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), UDS officially opened in 2017 as a vocational center offering one year diploma courses. Since then, it has graduated four cohorts of students in up to nine disciplines. Many of their students embarked on being independent contractors, and others have found viable employment. Its current programs/areas of study are: Auto Mechanic, Catering, Computer, Cosmetology, Electricity, Event Decoration, Hotel Management, Plumbing, and Tailoring.

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.

UDS Website: Uniting Distant Stars
Contact UDS: Email UDS (info@unitingdistantstars.com)

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