|April 13, 2020|
On behalf of the YMCA of Liberia, we bring you greetings in these very challenging times. The world has been struck by the deadly Coronavirus. To date, there are more than one million infections worldwide, and close to 100,000 deaths. This outbreak is even more challenging in the developing world, where employment, health, and governance services are limited. In mid-March, Liberia reported its first case of the Coronavirus and there has been a rise in cases, with hundreds of contacts being traced, while many others are in quarantine.
To mitigate the spread, the Government of Liberia imposed some measures; to include: the closure of schools/training centers, religious centers, and entertainment centers, among others. The key messages of social distancing and proper hygiene are being emphasized. As a result, all YMCA Youth Centers and training activities are closed, but we continue to provide essential services to the communities, with a new focus on health promotion and peacebuilding. Our staff and volunteers have been trained to create awareness in communities, but also to keep safe and ensure the safety of people under their supervision. We are also using the media, including social media, to promote awareness while engaging with the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia as well as local County Health Teams.
In the midst of this new trend, we are glad to provide information on the progress being made at the YMCA of Liberia. This builds on our update from the last quarter of 2019 and covers the period from January 1, 2020 – March 31, 2020.
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 an impact in the communities we serve.
The USAID Funded, Community Dialogue for Conflict Reconciliation Project has completed its 3rd cycle with an intake of 1,660 community members from 6 counties participating in the Community Based Sociotherapy (CBS) sessions. Participants have gone through 15 weeks of group socio-therapy activities and facilitators are being asked by local authorities to mediate various forms of disputes, while participants are now resolving longstanding conflicts in their respective families and communities. The end of the 3rd cycle, brings the total number of people reached so far through CBS to 4,090 (49% males and 51% females). A new batch of 1,120 participants is being recruited to form 112 sociogroups across 8 locations (14 groups per location). Young people trained as peace catalysts have established peace clubs in 160 schools and have implemented 22 peace initiatives in 22 schools in these locations. 18 activities planned for 18 other schools were halted due to the abrupt closure of schools. These activities ranged from sporting events, intellectual discourses, painting of IEC materials, to training on mechanisms for redress and gender-based violence, among others. 3 Community Leaders Forums were conducted to support community leaders in using available skills and resources to address issues affecting their communities. Due to the situation caused by the Corona Outbreak, the remaining 5 Community Forums are focused on supporting awareness and coordinating community structures to address the challenges posed by the Corona outbreak. In March, 112 Facilitators began gathering in Nimba County for a week-long refresher training, but this had to be canceled and participants were sent home due to the health emergency declared by the Government of Liberia. This project is implemented in communities along the Somalia Drive and Todee District in Montserrado County; Totota and Gbarnga in Bong County; Sanniquellie in Nimba County; Zwedru in Grand Gedeh County; Tubmanburg in Bomi County and Foya in Lofa County.
|ZOA and YMCA Liberia continue to implement the Peacebuilding and Reconciliation through Community Dialogues Project aimed at strengthening social cohesion and civic trust in five counties, with funding from SIDA. During the period under review, the project continued with cycle 6 of its Community Based Sociotherapy activities that have brought the total number of participants reached to 9,086 (males 34%, females 66%). On the other hand, there has been improved citizen participation and positive engagement with local governments, which have led to young people peaceful engagement with stakeholders on issues affecting them. Community Leaders are constantly engaged by YMCA staff to address issues that have been mapped out by them, while at the same time engaging local Government authorities on issues that affect them with evidence of civic actions of their local leaders. School Peace Clubs activities continued with students engaging their peers and school authorities on potential triggers of violence, as well as conducting awareness sessions on gender-based violence, among others. Due to the Corona Virus outbreak and the subsequent closure of schools, all peace club activities have been suspended. This project is implemented in West Point in Montserrado County; Kakata and Unification Town in Margibi County; Ganta and Yekepa in Nimba County; Robertsport and Sinje in Grand Cape Mount County.|
|The Liberia Country Program, funded by Cities Alliance through Slums Dwellers International, is focused on profiling and slum upgrading. The YMCA community development partners, Federation of Urban Poor Savers (FOLUPS), is supporting mobilization of communities through women-led savings groups and also monitoring ongoing construction projects in selected slum communities, based on approval by the Community Upgrading Fund Board of Cities Alliance. These interventions, however, are on a lower scale due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In order to support the Government’s awareness and engagement efforts to alleviate the virus, FOLUPS, with support from the YMCA Health Coordinator, is providing awareness support to its members; and also encouraging community dwellers to fully comply with the Government’s COVID-19 regulations to avoid the further spread of the virus. In order to leverage on existing resources, Cities Alliance has agreed to integrate some actions for COVID-19 responses in communities that we serve. Additionally, the Federation is currently conducting a COVID-19 assessment initiated by Slum Dwellers International (SDI) in three communities (West Point, Peace Island and Clara Town) in Liberia as an initial step for community-level interventions.|
|The Media Resource Center in Ganta, Nimba County, funded by USAID through Internews, received a total of 716 people accessing the facility during this period. Of the total, 98 were females and 618 were males. Participants included: 70 journalists, 463 students, 48 CSO members, and 135 community members. 43 of these people visited the center to do assignments, 69 to do research, 73 to browse the Internet, 31 to edit reports and documents, 145 to do typing tutorial and 355 to learn how to use the computer. |
The YMCA Youth Power Spaces, supported by the YMCA of Greater Toronto – Canada, continue to attract and empower young people. During the period, the power spaces conducted three youth innovative activities, job readiness trainings, group discussions, music and dance classes, among others. The spaces continue to attract young people to actively engage each other positively, which has led to a rapid increase in the attendance of young people. Communities, high schools, and universities are regularly visiting the youth power space to learn essential skills in how to apply for jobs, prepare CVs and sit job interviews, among others. Young people are meeting on a regular basis at the power spaces to discuss issues affecting their lives and communities. Some key issues discussed at the power space include how to address the needs of at-risk or vulnerable young people on the streets, holding government officials accountable for their promises, and the issue of war crimes court, among others. During this period, a total of 650 young people (425 males and 225 females accessed the power spaces for trainings, recreational activities, group discussions (social, political and economic issues), innovative activities and for use of the instruments available at the centers. The YMCA Youth Power Spaces are currently established in Monrovia, Kakata and Gbarnga.
|Through the Civil Peace Service Project, funded by Bread for the World – Germany, the YMCA continues to support peace clubs. Young people trained as facilitators were engaged with students and school authorities on potential triggers of violence and how to mitigate them. During this period, project activities were extended to Ganta, Nimba County. This year’s program works mainly with young people interested in journalism – building their skills and competencies to use media platforms for peacebuilding. Training sessions will also be held on gender mainstreaming, safeguarding and advocacy. However, as a result of the health emergency, these activities have been suspended and the young facilitators are involved in creating awareness in their communities on the Coronavirus. Activities under this project are implemented in Monrovia, Kakata, Gbarnga and Ganta.|
The Youth Opportunities Project, funded by the World Bank, through the Ministry of Youth & Sports, has completed its training, mentoring and follow-up support for 514 young people from 10 communities in Monrovia and Paynesville (West Point, Soniwein, 12th Street, Clara Town, Duala, Logan Town, Iron Factory, 72nd, Red Light and King Gray). These young people, between the ages of 15-17 years, were trained in four modules: Job Readiness, Social Support, Health and Hygiene, and Financial Literacy over a period of 2 months. At the end of the training, they received 3 months of follow-up and mentoring support, as well as counseling service. The project was geared at increasing employment readiness of targeted youth by supporting the development of non-cognitive skills and positive attitudes towards work. 5 Social workers, 20 Community Councilors and 1 Psychologist followed up with these young people to mentor and support them. Formal graduation exercises were conducted in each of the communities at the end of the project. The project was initially planned for 9 months to end in October 2019, but was extended by 3 months, bringing it to a final close in January 2020.
|In addition to these projects, the YMCA Computer Training Program continues to attract young people. Now under the YMCA Polytechnic College, the Computer Training Program has an enrollment of 350 students at beginner, intermediate and advance levels. The YMCA Polytechnic College is continuing the process of finalizing the requirements for granting of a license by the National Commission on Higher Education (NCHE). Due to the health emergency declared by the Government of Liberia, the Polytechnic was closed in mid-March. We are now reviewing options for accelerated learning to complete the current cycle as soon as schools re-open, while also preparing for the next phase of the program.|
The YMCA School System continues to operate, with a total enrollment of 1,081 students across 6 schools (3 Senior High Levels, 1 Junior High Level and 2 Elementary levels). The schools have been boosted by new uniforms and other school outfits. However, all schools are now closed in line with the Government’s regulations. Our camp at Todee continues to provide program services to communities in Todee District. Also, agriculture activities at the camp resumed during this period with the planting of vegetable crops. We are also engaging partners on investment into Camp Todee for agriculture, vocational training and eco-tourism.
In all of our activities, we are ensuring safety measures for staff and participants by ensuring hand-washing services, a maximum of 10 people per activity and social distancing. At the start of every meeting/activity, our staff do Corona Virus awareness sessions and engage participants on their knowledge and/or perception of the virus and its effects on their communities.
Despite the challenging economy and limited access to capital funding options, we continue to take little steps in our Social Enterprise ventures. The YMCA Polytechnic College, YMCA School System and the Todee Youth Camp Agriculture Initiative remain major parts of this strategy. Progress on these initiatives have been stalled due to the economic situation in the country and the dwindling of donor grants to support these. Due to the cases of Corona Virus in Liberia, all of these services have been closed. We are now brainstorming on social enterprise innovations that would respond to the challenges caused by the measures put in place by the health emergency in Liberia.
Last year, we launched a campaign to raise funds for the renovations of the David N. Howell Memorial Building (our headquarters). We have a goal to raise US$150,000.00 to do major renovation work – re-roofing of the entire building, building of an annex structure with additional restrooms, renovation of the multi-purpose gymnasium as well as replacing some electrical and plumbing fixtures, modernizing the external façade of the building’s front view and repainting the entire building. Work is ongoing as funds are being raised.
As part of the campaign activities, a Mini Victory Celebration meeting was hosted to celebrate the level reached thus far. A Basketball Tournament was organized for Old-timers. Certificates were presented to all participating teams and awards were presented to deserving individuals and teams. During this tournament, the culture of “giving back” to the YMCA to ensure that its core programs are sustained and available to everyone was emphasized, and many of the participants are requesting the tournament to be held annually to keep the momentum of the Y- Spirit.
For a wider community campaign outreach, discussions on fundraising initiatives were held with Diaspora YMCA Veterans with the intent to support the campaign through individual gifts and by sharing with other connectors. YMCA Veterans have since shown enthusiasm and are being given permission to establish a GoFundMe page to raise support for the Liberia YMCA.
Engagement meetings were held with prospective businesses, institutions, corporations, and individuals to market our vision and services and to secure support for YMCA Programs. Frequent follow-up calls and visits were made to keep the enthusiasm of the Campaign. However, due to the current global health crisis, major campaign activities are on a standstill until a state of safety is restored.
Membership is available online and on paper, making it accessible to the public. Have you taken your membership or have you renewed your membership since you last took one? Please visit our website at www.ymcaofliberia.org or 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. 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.
Our board and staff leaders are very concerned about the cases of Corona Virus in Liberia. The Management team has asked all staff to work from home as much as possible, with few senior management and project leaders working from office to meet specific deliverables. Activities at our centers have also been closed as we focus on supporting the communities through these difficult periods. We continue to engage our partners and health authorities on ways to address the challenge. As the country was already in a struggling economy, the cessation of many activities, which also include livelihoods of many people for almost a month, is a major concern. We are worried about the livelihoods of young people and communities, many of them who rely on the informal economy and daily income to survive.
In the wake of this, the YMCA has begun contingency planning so as to position the organization adequately through the likely scenarios of this outbreak. The scenarios are dependent on the duration of the Corona crisis and the effect on the population (# of cases, deaths) as well as the response of the Government (lockdown, curfew, restrictions, etc). The contingency plan seeks to prepare the organization to respond to the situation based on what would be experienced. It takes into account programs, administration and external relations. The board leaders and staff are working to finalize this soon to share with
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. As we go through this challenging health emergency, we encourage everyone to observe the safety measures put in place by the World Health Organization and their respective governments. Liberians are resilient people; we have been through a chain of civil wars, the worst Ebola outbreak in history and economic hardships. We can defeat Corona.
In line with the State of Emergency and subsequent regulations by the Government of Liberia, all YMCA centers, offices and program activities in Montserrado, Margibi and Nimba Counties will be closed from April 11 – 24, 2020. Based on the update as of 24 April, we will provide information on further actions.
It is in anticipation of situations like these that the YMCA of Liberia set for ourselves an ambitious vision of being a strong and resilient movement that is self-sustaining and delivering quality socially relevant programs to the young people of Liberia.
We wish you a Blessed Easter Celebration.
Yours in His Service,
E. Timotheus Kamaboakai
National General Secretary/CEO