Almost 500 young people in Liberia have graduated with business skills, increasing their chances of finding a job or starting a business in rural communities, including those devastated by the Ebola outbreak.
Many have already secured jobs or set up their own businesses. 20-year-old Joanna is one. She now works as a hairdresser and beauty therapist.
Joanna says: “Since I joined this programme, life has changed for me. I thought no one would want to be friends with me because I am an Ebola orphan. But now I have people to talk to and encourage me to move forward in life. One important thing this programme has done for me is that it has helped me to acquire skills I can live by and to realise that all is not lost; I can still make it in life.”
Of the new graduates, 88 per cent are members of local savings groups meaning they have money saved for unexpected expenses. This is an especially powerful tool for young people from the most vulnerable backgrounds, including female headed households, teenage mothers, and Ebola affected households in remote rural communities.
Along with providing enterprise and employability skills, young people are learning to stay healthy so they can stay at work and earn a living. Almost 24,000 young people have been reached with health information and services.
These workshops transform the lives of the young people who attend and those who deliver them. Wender Massaquoim, 25, says: “I never saw myself as a potential leader or role model for other young people. My self-esteem was very low until I was encouraged to volunteer with the Yepeka YMCA by a friend.”
Through training others to stay healthy, Wender’s confidence and presentation skills have flourished making her a desirable recruit for potential employers. Wender explains: “As a result of these trainings, I began to realize my potential. Now, as a Peer Health Educator and a member of the advocacy group I always encourage young people to speak out on issues affecting them.”