Unlocking the Door to Hope

It’s been more than a decade that the second civil war came to an end in Liberia with the country struggling its way through democracy since then. The annual Fragile State Index had considered the West African country as a success story, climbing back, slowly but steadily, from the abyss. This year's data though were disheartening. Liberia shifted 12 spots in the ranking in 5 years falling from number 33 in 2010 to number 21 in 2015.

The fragile stability of the West African nation was challenged by the catastrophic epidemic of Ebola that caused almost 5,000 victims.  On May 9, 2015 the World Health Organization declared the end of the Ebola outbreak raising hopes for a quick social and economic recovery. The way to stabilization has been long and rocky for the Liberian citizens who recognize the importance of collective effort as a way out of the vice circle. 

A countryside boy named Jarius Andrew Greaves realised that the young generation of his country needed aspiration and empowerment more than ever before. In 2008 he launched the establishment of a youth organization that would better position him to design and implement impactful projects and programs. As his dream and vision is to “become a better and potential youth development worker” he named the NGO Youth Network for Reform (YONER-LIBERIA) placing the focus of attention to the young generation.

Children that fought the war as child soldiers are the youth of today,” he says. “Their hopes and aspirations for the future have been dashed. The youth are being the assets and future of this country, if their plights are not brought to central stage to form part of national development agenda, they will soon become threats to peace, security and democracy”.

Andrew and his team believe that education and civic motivation are some of the most important principles in order to bring in the country the much desired stability by tackling major problems such as unemployment that mainly affect the young population. “This is a threat to peace and democracy because these young people could easily be mobilized to cause chaos again”, he says.

To serve this purpose YONER-LIBERIA creates projects where young people are able to earn a living through socially beneficial activities. It attempts as he claims to serve “as a beacon of hope for the youth where they would be provided the necessary support through innovative strategies to enable them realize their potential and secure a better future.”

Let’s consider for example how one of the projects work. Currently implemented in three communities in Paynesville City, a suburb of the capital Monrovia Youth Sustainable Waste Management Business Assistance Program (YSWMBAP) attempts to tackle the sanitation problem of the city by managing domestic solid wastes appropriately and at the same time providing income to those engaged.

As a first step the team behind YSWMBAP places garbage disposal containers in neighbourhoods and further explains to locals how dispose to use them. The workers who are responsible for this job are underprivileged youths aged between 18 to 25 years old. Andrew says that “since 2011, the project has provided sustainable job for over 25 people”.

Another project the team of YONER-LIBERIA has designed and implemented over the last five years is a Local Scholarship Program with the goal to buttress government’s effort in combating the high rate of illiteracy in Liberia, and to enable youth and street children pursue their dreams, and to have a stable source of income. The Local Scholarship Program provides cash and in-kind support to underprivileged youth and street children through collaborative engagements with institutions and individuals.

To date, the program has benefited over 100 elementary and high school and vocational/technical and university students resulting into twenty-five (25) scholarships annually. Each year, it costs U$75.00 to support one elementary student, US$100.00 for one middle (Jr. High) student, US$150.00 for one high school student, US$100.00 for one vocational/technical student and US$125 for one university student on the average. Youth on the waste project are also benefiting from the scholarship as a mean of empowering them to secure a better livelihood and future.

During the long summer vacations, I would always lobby companies, the local government, private businesses and the wider community to find internships or summer jobs so they could be gainfully occupied during this time including voluntary community service”, Andrew adds.

The story is not always rosy though. Andrew explains that in many occasions the financial obstacles they face in order to secure founders of YONER-LIBERIA projects and the lack of state connections leaves him discouraged and unwilling to keep going. “At times I feel frustrated and want to give up, but later I have to get stronger and vigor, first, with my own passion, and second, with the pieces of advice from my board members and other mentors in my networks” he concludes unlocking the door to hope for a better tomorrow for the African nation.

There are various opportunities to support Andrew’s activities in Liberia. Through Local Scholarship Program, you can support one elementary student (US$75.00), a middle school student (US$100.00) or a high school student (US$150.00). You can also remotely provide technical support, proof read documents and to come up with advice to strengthen students. Also there is an option to help YONER-LIBERA to write grant proposals, to compete in appropriate grant competitions. 

If you’re willing to help or interested in YONER-LIBERIA activities, contact Andrew by e-mail, Facebook or LinkedIn.



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