A youth agriculture farm in Zorzor
“I want to extend my thanks to CfP-Lbieria including all the donors and parters for giving our youth skills and knowledge to become better people for our society. Had it not being your presence and support, our youth wouldn’thave reached this far. Maybe we would be running again with our loads on our heads looking for places to take refuge. But your support has brought us peace and stability because our youth are no long taking in drugs and alcohol that will make them hostile and violent. Moreover, they are helping to build our houses and fixing our roads”(Yarkpawolo).
On Saturday, December 17, 30 War Marginalized Youths from across Liberia graduated from the Lutheran Vocational Training Institute in various local disciplines backed with psychosocial support in Salayea, Lofa County.
The ceremony was the conclusion of a nine month vocational training aimed at providing residential vocational skills Training opportunity to war affected youth in the country to improve their socio-economic status for job opportunities and livelihood sustainability. The training also provided psychosocial support to students to help with their successful reintegration back into society.
Have the planned activities been completed?
The project is an ongoing project, but some achievements have been made so far. Former participants are currently being integrated into their communities with many of them engaged positively into personal ventures. The ventures are paving smooth pathway for their reintegration. Those engaged have demonstrated to their colleagues, families and the community that change is possible. As a result of behavior change, the community is getting receptive to accept them again. As two community members gave their impression about program participants during one of visits
What on-going support and follow-up was offered to participants?
Site visitations, face-to-face interaction with participants, teachers and community members, telephone calls are different ways we have conducted follow-ups on the project beneficiaries and activities. Follow-up is done on a routine basis (four times) and monitoring is an ongoing process.
Another community elder also shared her impression during one of our community visits:
“Thank God for all the donors, for giving our children opportunities to go to school and learn skills. My son was a big drugs smokerand a notorious robber on the gold mine. I never ever wanted to associate myself with him because of his behavior. But with the change I have seeing in him since he returned from the school, I am happy that he can become my son again. I am proud of him!”. (Yarmah)
In general, what has been the impact of the training on the lives of participants and their families and communities?
Results so far have proven that participants/trainees are showing good posture for transformation. Evident of transformation is based on their involvement in various communities’ activities and the success stories from the community dwellers.
As a result of the training, participants are gradually rediscovering their values, knowing that their energies and the skills acquired can be utilized as force for good. Their self-esteem has been enhanced to undertake self-initiative. They are now utilizing their skills to get job that can earn them money to support their families.Their perception of self-worthlessness and hopelessness has changed into positive thinking. Most of them are now demonstrating to friends and communities through their actions that change is possible. Through the counseling and other follow-up activities, trainees have developed a better understanding of how to control their emotion whenever faced with challenges and constraints.
Community violence is becoming minimized; and negative perception towards trainees is gradually reducing. A tile of friendship and receptiveness among trainees, their family members and the communities are getting stronger once again and reconciliation is rapidly taking place. The communities can now boast of technicians with locally driven expertise in construction, mechanical and agricultural production. The cost of local products such as cassava, eddoes, potatoes, peppers, etc. are getting relatively cheap in some communities as a result of trainees involvement in agriculture and food production.
What evidence is there that communities of the participants have changed their perceptions of ex-combatants, and that participants are perceived as productive, peaceful members of the community?
Several evidences can be listed to measured the level of change in perception towards ex-combatants as productive and peaceful members of the community, but for briefness to this report, the following can be captured:
- The number of success stories from community members and beneficiaries
- The hiring of trainees (number of jobs) acquired and implemented by trainees in the community
- The provision of a building to trainees by the local government also shows a milestone in the change of perception. (Please note that the local government has given trainees a three-room building to be used as a meeting hall where they can converge, plan and share their success stories with each other)
- The involvement of trainees in community meetings and communion activities
What changes have been noted in the behaviors, attitudes, and skills of participants?
We have noted an increase in coping mechanisms and behaviors which are useful in all aspects of life, e.g., goal setting, problem solving, self-awareness, self-confidence, interpersonal skill development, becoming more self-sufficient, etc.; These changes are evident by the reduced number of violence and robberies in the community as well as the number of building constructed by participants and number of praises and success stories and testimonies received and the different enterprises established by trainees in the communities.
What has CfP- Liberia learned as a result of this project?
From the feedback we received from participants and the communities, it is possible to identify the following lessons learned:
1. That building the capacities of youth (ex-combatants) through vocation is an effective approach of reducing community tension and improving dispute and reconciliation among community members in post conflict society;
2. This year enrollment suggests that there is an increased awareness and acknowledgement of communities on the program to empower young people through vocational skills;
3. That war affected youth have energies and this energies can be transformed into force for good if given the opportunities;
4. That war affected young, if properly guided, care for and loved with the necessary support to acquired knowledge and skills, they can serve as the cradles of sustainable peace and development in Liberia.
5. Inclusive participation of war affected youth is key to ensuring the sustainability of peace and development in the county
6. Recognizing and paying more attention to war affected youth (ex-combatants) enhances their strength and restores their hope for the future
This incredible progress has made many of our partners happy. In one partner remarks, she said " About three years ago this beautiful soul, called on us to reach out for help and dream for financial backing for a program that he personally created to help War Affected Youth in Liberia through his organization, Camp for Peace. Well here we are today with his program fully up and running and we thank God for the miracle".
Youth Agriculture farm
Students lined up for graduation match