The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), an implementing partner to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is undertaking major training components of the Socio-Economic Empowerment of Disadvantaged (SEED) project for Youth at Risk, funded by the UN Peace-Building Support Office through the Liberia Multi-Partner Trust Fund (LMPTF).
Over 150 vulnerable youth commonly called Zogoes and Zogeese are currently benefitting from entrepreneurial, business, financial management and other relevant skills that correspond to industry/business interventions.
217 disadvantaged youths from 7 of the 10 project communities had gone through the psychosocial component of the project, provided to CAFOD through UNDP from the YWCA, under the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Willet Salu of CAFOD says, her organization engaged the YWCA which already has Social Workers and Psycho-social counsellors in the communities working with the disadvantaged youths and organized for the delivery of psycho-social programmes.
According to Salu, the disadvantaged youths are at different educational levels, including high school, college but mostly elementary school dropouts-this category is provided with Adult and financial literacy training that is serving as a foundation for enhancing their numeracy and literacy skills, to fully grasp lessons on Business Management and Entrepreneurship (BMEs).
There is also the Vocational Skills and Village Savings and Loan Scheme components focused on building the disadvantaged youths’ capacity in team-work, social cohesion and savings to improve self-development, livelihoods and income while supporting positive community growth.
The Youth have been divided into groups of 25, targeting New Kru Town, King Gray, Thinker’s Village, Red-light, where beneficiaries are performing well and regularly attending the sessions, while for Central Monrovia, it’s a bit slow due to the attraction of other activities for the same group of people.
In a conversation with some of the trainees from the King Gray Community, they are excited to make changes in their lives. Most of them find themselves in the streets, ghettos and gambling clubs for different reasons. They include peer pressure, Gender Based Violence (GBV) abuse, and trauma from a bad experience.
30-years old Arthur Trobeh holds a BSC in Mass Communications and Biblical Studies from the African Bible College. He has worked with the Allay Printing Press as Desk Top Publisher and Graphic Designer and at the Rising Academy, he served as Operations Assistant. Arthur says he lost his younger brother in a fire that left him in a traumatic state of mind which eventually led him into the ghetto. “This training will help me get my life back on track. I am grateful to UNDP and partners for this initiative,”Trobeh mentioned.
Nana Karyea dropped out of school since the 5th grade and is a victim of GBV. She narrated that her boyfriend whom she lived with for years and had five children-two miscarried, violently abused her on a regular basis. Nana showed scars of the violent abuse with a deep gash in her hair and a fire burn on her left hand. According to her, she already had one child (14yrs), before she met the father of the other children-5, 8 and 11. “My life has been a complete mess. I’ve been involved in smoking, drinking, sex work etc. Since the introduction of this program weeks ago, I’ve decided to be a better person. It’s not easy, but I’m sure that changes will come,” Nana noted.
Other beneficiaries narrating their stories and appreciating the role of UNDP and its partners, include Catherine Diggs-23 yrs- dropped out of school while in 6th grade, Miatta Zinnah-35, 10th grade dropout; Edward Joe 29-11th grade and Wala Williams, a graduate of the Haywood Mission School who found himself in the streets due to peer pressure. He has computer skills. “I have experience in decoding phones,” Wala said.
As these young people go through the programme, they have different goals- expressing interests in plumbing, tailoring, the military, IT, graphic design, and Hair dressing among others.
YWCA Psycho-social Counselor Frank Yancy is impressed with the response received thus far from the beneficiaries under this program. Yancy is optimistic that it will yield good results. “This is a process and not an event. It will take time to get them molded in the right frame of mind, but so far, we see some progress,’ He said.
Meanwhile, UNDP’s Gerald Witherspoon has encouraged beneficiaries to conduct themselves in a manner that will bring respect to them. “Remember that all eyes are on you. You have to look out for each other especially in your behavior. We have to get good report from the community,” Witherspoon stressed.
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, alcoholism, gambling and other vices, by providing support and technical skills to enable them become more productive members of the society.