Once again, we are glad to provide information on the progress being made at the YMCA of Liberia. This builds on our update from the second quarter of the year. We thank God for his blessings upon us as a nation and a people. We are grateful for peace in Liberia.
Here are some of the things that we achieved during the quarter under review in line with the pillars of our Strategic Plan:
Youth Empowerment Programs
Our programs continue to be far-reaching and making impact in the communities we serve.
The Community Dialogue for Conflict Reconciliation Project, funded by USAID, has commenced its 2ndcycle with an intake of 1,660 community members from 6 counties participating in the Community Based Sociotherapy (CBS) sessions. The project is making impact in the communities beyond the CBS sessions, as facilitators are being asked by local authorities to mediate various forms of disputes (mainly: land, tribal, political and inter-generational issues) as well as beneficiaries now resolving longstanding conflicts in their respective communities. Young people trained as peace catalysts have established peace clubs in 160 schools and have implemented 40 peace initiatives in 40 schools in these locations.
The peacebuilding project, funded by the Swedish Embassy in Monrovia through ZOA Liberia, continues its community based sociotherapy in 5 counties. 5,728community members have been recruited so far to participate in 12 to 15-week CBS sessions. 900 students have been reached through peace club activities and 354community leaders have participated in dialogues and civic trust workshops. This project has created safe spaces where meaningful reconciliation can take place, and in which social cohesion and intergroup harmony are being fostered. Building on this basis, the project continues to increase cooperation and civic trust between communities, civil society and government through facilitating positive and inclusive encounters and dialogue.In addition, the project has a strong focus on gender equity and social inclusion as cross cutting issues, and promotes civic participation. The project also contributes to achieving a more inclusive society, with focus on increased participation of women in political processes.
The Liberia Country Program, funded by Cities Alliance through Slums Dwellers International, is focused on profiling and slum upgrading. Under this initiative, the Federation of Liberia Urban Poor Savers with support from the YMCA of Liberia is conducting a citywide settlement forum involving 113 slum communities which were profiled under the Liberia Country Program (LCP) in Phase one. The settlement forums will be conducted in Monrovia, Paynesville, the Borough of New Town and nine other Townships, mainly slum communities within Monrovia and its environs. After the conduct of the settlement forum, the current community priorities will then be reviewed by the communities and submitted to the YMCA and Cities Alliances for flexible community project intervention tailored to the basic needs of communities under the Community Upgrading Funds (CUF). During the first ten months, Cities Alliance is to deliver 40 infrastructure projects to communities that are approved by the CUF Board. Through this program, urban decision makers are recognizing the value of urban poor knowledge and experience as an essential component to building resilient communities.
The Media Resource Center, funded by USAID through Internews, saw a total of 676 persons accessing the facility during this period. 106 were journalists, 420 students, 26 CSO members, 129 community members. 5 of them did assignments, 75 research, 146 browsing, 63 report editing, 128 typing tutorial and 261 introduction to computer.
The Youth Power Space in Monrovia, funded by the YMCA of Greater Toronto, has reached over 450 young people during this quarter. Over 50 participants are members of the youth savings groups and have begun learning about savings and investments in entrepreneurship. 6 trained facilitators have been conducting sessions for young people at the power spaces on skills building and career guidance. There are now three active youth power spaces in Monrovia, Kakata and Gbarnga. The Youth Power Spaces are attracting young people through appealing activities, building their self-esteem and awareness, building skills and linking them with opportunities for employment or entrepreneurship.
The Civil Peace Service Project, funded by Bread for the World in Germany has conducted advocacy training for 60 girls in Gbarnga and Kakata. The training was intended to build the confidence and abilities of young girls in advocacy and engagements as a way of increasing females’ participation in advocacy. The project also celebrated the International Peace Day in collaboration with the Mano River Union Youth Parliament. The event was held under the theme: ‘Youth and Climate Change.’ A total of 76 young people participated. Through the CPS, about 120 school peace clubs are being supported in Monrovia, Kakata and Gbarnga, with a total membership of 2,400 students.
The Youth Opportunities Project, funded by the World Bank, through the Ministry of Youth & Sports, has recruited over 500 young people from 10 communities in Monrovia and Paynesville. These young people, between the ages of 15-17, are currently being trained in four modules: Job Readiness, Social Support, Health and Hygiene and Financial Literacy. The project aims to increase employment readiness of targeted youth by supporting the development of non-cognitive skills and positive attitudes towards work. After the three months of training, these young people will be mentored and supported over a period of three months to prepare them for the job market.
In addition to these projects, the YMCA Computer Training Program completed its 29thcycle with the graduation of 350 students at beginner, intermediate and advance levels. Additionally, a total of 230 children participated in the Vacation Computer Training Program. We have formally received permit from the Ministry of Education to provide Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in Liberia. In addition, we have begun the process of obtaining the relevant authorization from the National Commission on Higher Education (NCHE) for the licensing of the YMCA Polytechnic College. With the permit to provide TVET services, the Polytechnic will begin to offer TVET courses this year, while developing the diploma and degree courses to begin upon receiving license from the NCHE. Course curriculums have been developed, staff recruited and we are now working on the development of professional courses and vocational training.
Over 600 children, between the ages of 3-17 years, participated in the Montserrado YMCA Children Vacation Sports Program. During the vacation, the kids learned the fundamentals of basketball, with added life skills to include training in health and hygiene, communication skills, peacebuilding, arts and crafts, among others. All of these were taught with the YMCA leadership development module or Subject to Citizens (S2C) and the YMCA Core Values cross-cutting all activities. Also, during this period, a total of 79 young people benefitted from vacation jobs. Many of them served as caregivers for children in the vacation program, while others were assigned with other institutions in Monrovia.
The YMCA School System has opened for another school year, with a total enrollment of 1,081 students across 6 schools (3 Senior High Levels, 1 Junior High Level and 2 Elementary levels). Last academic year, 144 out of 153 of our students (94%) passed the West African exams. A new design of uniforms and other school outfits have been produced to rebrand the schools. Our camp at Todee continues to provide program services to communities in Todee District as we have suspended agriculture activities due to the heavy downpour of rain.
In September, the YMCA of Liberia, with funding from the EU Delegation in Liberia, implemented a one-day Beach CleanUp Exercise in observance of the International Coastal Clean-up day. The overall goal of the exercise was to improve community knowledge on the importance and benefits of keeping the beaches and environment free from garbage and human waste and ensuring a clean and healthy environment. The exercise brought together 753 volunteers, including officials of the EU and member states representatives, as well as relevant agencies of the Government of Liberia. A total of 3,781kg of waste was collected on this day.
In partnership with Y Care International, we conducted the “Future of Work” Research in Urban Montserrado. A total 104 young women and men (including young people with disabilities) ages between 18-35 as well as 12 key stakeholders both in government and private institutions were interviewed. The survey was complemented with Focus Group Discussions, Key Informant Interviews and a Validation Workshop with key stakeholders. ‘The Future of Work’ research explored the types of work that are suitable for the most vulnerable young people living in urban Liberia that can be potentially enhanced using ICT by 2025. The research also explored how these jobs could be made more accessible to vulnerable young women and men including young people with disabilities. Full report of this research will be made available in the next quarter and will inform YMCA’s program design in enterprise and employment initiatives for young people, using ICT.
In September, the YMCA was invited to facilitate a one day annual career and job fair on the campus of the University of Liberia. The goal of the program was to promote and attract students to different employment opportunities and climate at different levels. During this session, the YMCA created a participatory session on its work and activities in communities. Students and faculty members were inspired by the profile of the YMCA and how young people lives are being impacted through our services. We also emphasized on the spirit of volunteerism and service to community. A success story was shared by the President of the UL Graduating class of 2018/2019; narrating how she has been an active Hi -Y member and has served on different programs and projects in the YMCA. After sharing her Y-story, many students visited the YMCA stand and took up membership, while others subscribed on behalf of their children – referring them to a Hi-Y (High School YMCA) Clubs within their school. As a result, the University has requested a partnership for the reactivation of the UL Y-Phalanx (University YMCA) Club. Rev. Nelly W. Wright, Counselor at the Student Academic Advisement and Career Counseling Center, at the University of Liberia said, “Students are now entering the university at age 15 and 16; therefore, a partnership with the YMCA would help keep them to be focused and engaged as active and responsible citizens.”
We continue to make some major headways in our Social Enterprise ventures. Our Computer Training Program remains a major part of this strategy and continues to pull young people from across Monrovia every cycle. The YMCA School System is now rebranded with a new set of school uniforms. During the quarter, we worked with all YMCA centers to develop a social enterprise plan aimed at expanding revenue flows at each center.
This quarter, we have completed a number of assessments on the David N. Howell Memorial Building (our headquarters). A technical assessment was conducted by structural engineers to determine the durability of the building and possibility of adding additional floors. From these assessments, we have now decided to give the structure a facelift and take some temporary steps to increase spaces for programs and services. As such, we have launched a US$150,000.00 fundraising campaign to renovate the building. Major work will include, re-roofing of the entire building, building of an annex structure with additional restrooms, renovation of the multi-purpose gymnasium and installation of wooden floor, replacing some electrical and plumbing fixtures, modernizing the external façade of the building’s front view and repainting the entire building. We kindly call on everyone to join us in promoting this campaign and raising funds for this worthwhile cause. Brochures, posters and additional information can be obtained from our office.
In support of this effort, the YMCA Fundraising Team that was set up earlier this year, has begun work on their plans – engaging government, individuals, businesses and corporate institutions towards this effort. The YMCA OldTimers Basketball Association is currently running a basketball tournament for oldtimers in Monrovia and Paynesville, with funds raised in support of this project, in addition to individual contributions of members.
Membership is available online and on paper, making it accessible to the public. A team of young people has been mobilized to follow up on past members and recruit new members. Each county is working towards their membership target of 1,000 members as a criterion for accreditation. Have you taken your membership or have you renewed your membership since you last took one? Please visit our website at www.ymcaliberia.orgor our social media pages on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter to follow the link and sign up for membership. Alternatively, you can obtain a paper form from the closest YMCA or call 0886510638 or 0778498687 and someone would be glad to help you.
We are grateful to all members of our local and national boards for their service and commitment over the period. Local branches are now active in mobilizing their membership for their local branch assemblies so as to elect a new corps of officers. We want to use this medium to encourage all members that are interested in the forward march of the YMCA, have a passion for youth development and can commit their time, talents and treasury to provide direction and leadership for their local branches to apply for positions or membership on their local board. This is a unique opportunity to provide stewardship in advancing our mission – I hope you can take the challenge.
We are pleased to introduce Mrs. Vonyee Newton Kolison as our Resource Mobilization Director. Mrs. Kolison will provide leadership and strategic direction to a key pillar of the YMCA’s Vision 2031 – Resource Mobilization. This pillar includes activities in Social Enterprise Development, Asset Development, Membership and Fundraising Campaigns. As Resource Mobilization Director, Mrs. Kolison is also the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Liberia YMCA. Prior to this role, Mrs. Kolison has been the Branch Coordinator of the Monrovia YMCA (now Montserrado YMCA) since 2012.
We are also pleased to introduce Mr. Lansana Conteh as Acting Finance & Administrative Director. As per our new organogram, Mr. Conteh will oversee the Finance, Administrative and Operations activities of the YMCA. He is taking charge over the administration and implementation of revised policies and administrative forms in line with the new management model of the YMCA, which allows autonomous institutions within the YMCA – branches, education and training institutions. Mr. Conteh has served as an Accountant in the YMCA since 2009. He replaces Mrs. Vida Bracewell, who was honorably retired after about 18 years of service to the organization.
We are grateful to the Government of Liberia, parents, the leadership of local communities and all of our partners who support us to reach people and communities across Liberia. It is an honor to serve you and build on the legacy of this great movement. It is this realization that inspires us every day as we open the doors of our YMCA to all.
Yours in His Service,
E. Timotheus Kamaboakai
National General Secretary/CEO
YMCA of Liberia