In December 2013, 115 youth from across five Liberian counties came together for the second annual National Youth Summit in Monrovia to share their achievements and lessons learned from participating in EDC’s Advancing Youth Project. The summit aimed to identify and promote linkages between Alternative Basic Education (ABE) classes and youth club and livelihoods activities. Representing the 25 highest-achieving youth clubs from the project’s 150 ABE sites, the youth were joined by EDC project staff and partners, community and business stakeholders, Liberian government officials, and USAID Liberia Mission employees.
“I’m impressed with how motivated and empowered these youth are. They aren’t waiting for someone to come and help them—they are helping themselves,” said Lisa Hartenberger Toby, the chief of party the Advancing Youth project. “It is this kind of proactive attitude that will lead to better lives for Liberian youth.”
During the summit, the youth gave presentations on their most successful youth club activities and participated in panel discussions on specific strategies used throughout the year. They explored how lessons learned could be used more broadly, such as adding value to products and accessing finance and agro-inputs to support their initiatives. In particular, the youth shared that short-term skills training and business skills development, access to Village Savings and Loans initiatives, and mentoring activities helped to support their clubs to establish group gardens or soap-making initiatives for profit.
“Lives are being improved by the social fund and saving[s] we now have,” remarked Bill Kollie, an Advancing Youth Project participant and president of the FlomoWennah Youth Club. “We do not need any loan association or bank to credit and pay with huge interest rate[s]. Credibility and integrity are gradually being restored among young people as a result of this association. We have now raised, from just 10 months of operation, a total of LD$148, 485.00 ($1,750 US) … words are inadequate to express how grateful we are and will always be to the USAID Advancing Youth Project.”
Looking toward the year ahead, the youth identified how they could enhance their agricultural efforts by using the findings about crops, pricing, markets, and value chains gathered from the project’s 2013 Youth Livelihood Assessment. Project partners also demonstrated the various livelihood pathways associated with their work through skills training support and access to finance provided.
On the last day, USAID Mission Director John Mark Winfield gave an encouraging keynote address. “You are here today not just as learners, but as leaders and role models from your community who are showing that it is never too late to learn,” remarked Mr. Winfield. “I want to encourage all of you to continue with your efforts and mutual support—through hard work and collaborating together, you can achieve more.”
More youth clubs and youth will participate in county-level summits between January and July of this year, with the next National Youth Summit to follow in December 2014.
USAID's Advancing Youth Project is implemented by EDC in collaboration with the YMCA of Liberia and Mercy Corps. The project is currently reaching more than 10,000 learners through education, leadership, and livelihoods opportunities in six counties, with the goal of reaching more than 16,000 Liberian youths by 2016.