Many high-risk youth continue to encounter difficulties with re-integrating into their communities and securing livelihoods, due to limited education, skills acquisition and opportunities.

A Former Disadvantaged Youth and now Addiction Counselor, has called on youth at risk to make the necessary sacrifices needed to bring changes to their lives.

William M. Wodo Jr. was speaking during a 3-day orientation exercise for major actors in the implementation of a pilot project for youth with very high vulnerabilities.

The18-month pilot project is known as the Socio-Economic Empowerment of Disadvantaged (SEED) Youth specifically designed for young people commonly called (Zogoes).

The project is to be implemented by UNDP and UNFPA with funding from the Peacebuilding Fund (the Liberia Multi-Partner Trust Fund) and in partnership with the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

The orientation exercise targeted over 100 people comprising Community Leaders, officers of the Liberia National Police, Drug Enforcement Agency, disadvantaged youth leaders, facilitators, testimony speakers and Psycho-social counselors, as well as youth and women groups, Ministry of Health, local NGos etc.

They are major actors who will be involved in the execution and implementation of various activities under the project.

At one of the sessions specifically designed for Heads of Zogoes, Mr. Wodo encouraged them to take advantage of the project to bring changes to their lives.

“You can take your lives back if you take this program seriously. You have your own life, no one can live your life for you,” he said.

Mr. Wodo who has now established 3 schools in Monrovia, narrated his story of being in the streets for 30 years, experiencing addiction and mental disability.

Also a nutritionist, Wodo runs an organization called Cultivation for Users Hope (CFUH).

He encouraged the beneficiaries to muster the courage to work towards bringing the changes needed to their lives, by taking first steps of distancing themselves from people and places that may contribute to their relapse.

The orientation sessions form part of the planning stages of the project and covered various discussions on the background and objectives of the project; situation analysis of Disadvantaged Youth in Liberia; Existing policies, laws, programs and regulations; Gaps and Challenges; Mental Health Implication of Substance Abuse and Drug addiction, as well as Mental Health and wellbeing.

Other Speakers included Ruben Logan from the Progressive Youth of Liberia; Joseph M.D. Johnson- Ministry of Youth and Sports; Willet Salute of CAFOD; Roseline K. Toweh of YWCA; Joseph S. Quoi –Ministry of Health; Samuel Ford – LNP Community Policing; Comfort Kollie of UNFPA as well as Bendu ZaIzay and Gerald L. Witherspoon from UNDP.

The beneficiaries were also given an opportunity to hold group discussions on how communities and their families see them (addressing the issue of stigma).

The SEED Project is targeting 500 youth at risk within Montserrado County. It is meant for those who are mostly found in ghettos, street corners, cemeteries, and other areas unfit for dwelling. Many of them are on drugs and other illicit substances.

It seeks to help them address the issues of drug-abuse, providing support and technical skills to enable them become more productive members of the society.

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