By Musa A. Kabbah (YES 2015-2016, Liberia, placed by YFU in Alpena City, MI)
I am Musa A. Kabbah, a YES alumnus from Liberia hosted in Alpena City, Michigan by the Snow family, with a double placement host brother from Jordan. During my exchange year, I played both JV and Varsity soccer at Alpena High School. And I learned the concept of volunteering and youth leadership.
Upon returning home, I started Better Understanding for a Better Liberia (BUBL), a youth initiative which has since gained nonprofit status from the Liberian government. BUBL works with Liberia’s youth to address challenges facing young people and the nation. BUBL organizes a series of workshops and trainings to help promote peace and interfaith harmony. I applied for a 2020 YES Alumni Grant to help sponsor the BUBL National Youth Summit 2021, which engaged 25 youth, ages 18 to 30, from Liberia’s 15 counties on the topics of peace, leadership, interfaith dialogue, and development.
During the first two days of the summit, participants took part in interactive sessions with speakers and panelists on the topics of female representation in leadership, the role of youth in maintaining peace in Liberia, and youth participation in national leadership and development. Divided into five groups, participants brainstormed and presented solutions to the topics discussed. Nearly all five groups concluded that the first step in solving most of our problems in Liberia is to embrace religious tolerance and intertribal communication and understanding.
On the third day of the summit, we led the participants on a tour of historical sites in Monrovia. We visited the Liberian National Museum, Providence Island, the Mayflower, and Ducor Hotel. The Mayflower was the ship that transported freed slaves back to Liberia, and it docked on Providence Island. Ducor hotel was one of the first five-star hotels in West Africa before it was destroyed during the Liberian civil war. Tour guides at every location explained the history to participants and answered questions.
In our post-workshop evaluation, 98% of participants agreed they are more open and willing to engage in peaceful intertribal and interfaith dialogue. 100% of participants said they learned at least one important aspect of Liberian history that they had never known before. 100% agreed that peace and development can only be achieved if we work together beyond tribal and religious lines — a question that only had 54% agreement before the summit.
One participant noted, "I would personally like to share my appreciation to the entire BUBL family for all the hard work and energetic effort you all put into making the BULB 2021 National Youth Summit an inspiring, educational, historical, and unique experience for every one of us.”
Supervisory Program Officer at USAID Liberia Kimberlee Bell served as a summit speaker. She said, "I had such a wonderful time. Thank you for the opportunity to meet with your very talented group! I hope my session was useful and kind of fun too!"
Posts on BUBL social media and its website received over 15,000 views, 3,000 likes, and 100 positive, supportive comments on our work.
This year’s summit was the most challenging project I have done so far in my career. We had to postpone it on multiple occasions because of cancellations and difficulties finding a suitable venue due to COVID-19. I learned and grew a lot from this project. It gave me a whole new understanding of leadership and management. It also gave me much needed insight on navigating and coordinating around shortcomings. Even though it was very challenging, I am grateful for the opportunity!
I want to extend sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, iEARN-Liberia, Youth for Understanding (YFU), the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the U.S. Embassy Monrovia for their continued support of our initiatives. Also, a special thanks goes to the dedicated, passionate, and committed BUBL volunteers, our inspirational speakers, our cook, and the participants who all made this summit a success.
I intend to keep raising funds to implement the BUBL National Youth Summit annually. BUBL projects are sponsored mainly by donors, grants, and partnerships. Keep an eye on the BUBL website and Facebook page for updates on upcoming initiatives!