By Massolian B.M. Fahnbulleh (YES 2011-2012, Liberia, placed by AFS-USA in Anchorage, AK)
Let me start by first extending thanks and appreciation to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for supporting the YES program and for alumni grant opportunities that empower YES alumni to implement meaningful projects that tackle major challenges in our communities.
Through these YES Alumni Grants, alumni can positively contribute to our nations through our own local initiatives, which, by extension, means that the U.S. Government is contributing to Liberia, as it always has in the long-lasting relationship between the two nations.
I am a young woman whose greatest interest has been the development of women and girls. The spirit of civic duty was sparked during my exchange year in the U.S. through the Civic Education Workshop and other trainings and conferences. So, upon returning home, I could not just sit back and watch my country struggle with numerous societal difficulties without doing anything. Then I learned about the YES Alumni Grant opportunity, which supports and empowers alumni to contribute to the development of our societies.
After carefully thinking about what role I could play to make an impact, I decided to promote women’s and girls’ empowerment through my project, the Women’s Self-Reliance Initiative (WOSRI). WOSRI is a vocational skills training program that two talented young women and I launched in 2018 with the support of a YES Alumni Grant.
WOSRI is now a registered non-profit organization that focuses on women’s advancement by providing practical and theoretical knowledge of vocational skills. Currently, the program offers training in pastry making and cosmetology, but we hope to expand our offerings to tailoring and decorating as we grow through fundraisers, partnerships, and other grant opportunities.
WOSRI has directly impacted 65 young women and girls in eight underprivileged communities in Monrovia since its launch in 2018. Phase one was funded by a YES Alumni Grant and trained a cohort of 20 participants. Phase two, which trained 15 participants, was implemented with support from prominent residents in the community. In early 2021, WOSRI wrapped up its third program with a cohort of 30 participants, which was again funded by a YES Alumni Grant. Our next step is to secure an official space where our classes will be conducted, as well as partnering with salons and pastry shops for our graduated cosmetologists and pastry makers to utilize their knowledge.
I am extremely grateful to my WOSRI team and facilitators for keeping a determined spirit in achieving this dream of women’s empowerment through skills development. I’m also grateful to our sponsors and partners: the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the YES Alumni Grants Program, iEARN Liberia, the YES Alumni Corps Liberia, the U.S. Embassy Monrovia, the State Exchange Alumni Association of Liberia, the administration of the FAWE School of Excellence, and every other individual who directly or indirectly contributed to the successful implementation of the initiative. We look forward to implementing more editions of this project, and we love and appreciate you all so kindly.