“Some people can now afford to send their children to school again” George on the impact he and his team have had on the community. Photo: Matt Foster “Some people can now afford to send their children to school again” George on the impact he and his team have had on the community. Photo: Matt Foster

George, a volunteer at Kakata YMCA in Liberia, has a passion for local community development. Though not without its challenges, George feels he thrives on the skills and opportunities his work provides him.

George, as he is known to his friends and colleagues, graduated from Lango Lippaye High School in 2016. Since leaving full time education he has taken on more roles and responsibilities and volunteers full time at the YMCA in Bassa Community, Kakata. George is extremely passionate about youth work and grateful for the skills and inspiration he gains from the YMCA.

George lives in Bassa, which he says faces many challenges with its high youth population. A lack of education and jobs means many young people become vulnerable members of the community. Often crime and gambling are popular methods of earning a living. “Many young people do not see the benefit of volunteering,” says George, “and are just interested in quick money.” Liberia has a huge youth population at 70% per cent, and yet they are vastly underrepresented in politics and local services., and Bassa reflects this .. George notes how often “young people are not given the chance to speak their minds or make the right choices for themselves,” and explains the heavily influential role that parents play in their children’s lives.

One thing that George likes about his community is the willingness of young people to change; many are unhappy with their lives, have low self-esteem, and perhaps turn to drugs or alcohol as an escape, but George enjoys the challenge that comes with helping someone turn their life around.

George’s work with the YMCA primarily focuses on his role as a peer educator. He and other team members go to schools and various communities to hold sessions on youth advocacy, drugs and alcohol, crime, and prostitution.

He and a team of trained individuals focus on areas in their community that were particularly affected by Ebola, their livelihoods, work and economies being devastated by the virus in 2014. The sessions are held once or twice a month. Sometimes they focus on enterprise and employability training for young people so that they may find work and help to stimulate their local economy. Other times meetings are held with the elders of various communities in order to create cooperation in working towards a common goal. “Some people can now afford to send their children to school again” says George, who feels that the Y Care International’s work has had a direct impact on his skills and the lives of his local community.

Written by Y Care International volunteer Laura Maguire