It was a picturesque scene on Tuesday, April 21st when one of Liberia’s prime and prestigious institutions of topnotch education, United Methodist University, graduated five hundred and fifty one Liberians in various disciplines. Facial smiles, joyful tears, and blissful contentment characterized the commencement convocation as relatives, friends, well wishers and a host of dignitaries rose to the occasion. In spite of intermittent rainfall, the weather was sunny. Cool breeze blew across from the Atlantic Ocean while the fresh air from the mangroves floated. The beautiful landscape and portrait within the statuesque and historic Unity Conference Center ideally located in Virginia City was a perfect match for such ceremony. For many of the graduates, the road to achieving this milestone did not come on a silver platter, rather through diligence, dedication and deportment. The struggle for tuition and other fees, tussle for transportation and bank payment, as well as jostle for registration and competing priorities still remain memorable. Thus, each graduate has a unique story that marked the beginning of their amazing journey towards earning the rights and privileges as a degree holder. It is here and now that I would like to share a humble story about one of the graduates, Pauline Wlati Nagbe, who walked away with a degree of Bachelor of Business Administration in Management. As Founder and Executive Director of a leading grassroots, voluntary driven, and accredited youth-led development organization, Youth Exploring Solutions, I have a great pleasure working with young people all over Liberia towards making people problem solvers as well as tolerant and critical thinkers in the areas of sustainable development, environmental conservation, human rights, education, health and agriculture. However, I have rarely been as impressed or inspired as I am with Pauline Wlati Nagbe. I believe she is a super star. There are few people that I have met who possess the ability to motivate positive change, inspire young people, motivate women, and who have also overcome exceptional odds by living and growing up in a country torn apart by fourteen years of intermittent Civil War. I have known Pauline, personally and professionally, for about three years and I must confess that she is among the most capable and talented volunteers of our organization. She represents a group of young professionals unrivaled in resourcefulness, tenacity, and creativity. Pauline stands among her peers for many reasons. She began her tertiary education through a simple call on the famous JKB Night Show hosted by J. Kolva Beyan of Truth FM. On the show, Pauline highlighted her eagerness to wash and iron clothes for anyone who was willing to assist her acquired higher education. Fortunately, that very night, she received calls from some listeners pledging support. Among the many that made generous contribution was Dr. Julius S. Nelson of the University of Liberia who encouraged and provided opportunity to wash and iron clothes in return for scholarship to attend United Methodist University. For only one semester, Pauline benefited from Dr. Nelson’s benevolent succor. Howbeit, Pauline refused to be left behind. She mustered the courage and used challenges as the stepping stones towards achieving her ultimate desirous outcome. Pauline began to mobilize, organize, and plan innovative approaches to expand her network. Luckily, she built a wonderful rapport with some staff members of the National Port Authority and eventually obtained a part-time job as a Tally Clerk assigned on a ship. Pauline utilized remuneration from the job to settle tuition and other arrears in addition to take care of basis needs and sustain her family. Her ability to continue her academic sojourn did not cease despite being affected by downsizing exercise and subsequent termination of contract. Through the depths of disappointment and discontentment, Pauline nurtured her character, and embraced a life of service to others. She spent one year serving as a Community Based Enterprise Marketing Assistant at Monrovia City Corporation, where she encouraged many people to create community based enterprises in an endeavor to collect solid waste from the community. In essence, Pauline put her boots on the ground and led a team of diverse multicultural backgrounds to engage, educate and empower young Liberians to become entrepreneurs in the area of solid waste management. Again, she used compensation from the contract to pay her fees and look after her family.Pauline’s involvement in Youth Exploring Solutions came as a result of a mentorship program organized to train emerging leaders. From there, she expressed interest and continued to work for the organization. Her contribution in our organization has been beyond our expectations, and she has played crucial role in helping us develop, implement, and design educational and outreach programs in the areas of women’s leadership, gender issues, girls’ mentorship, early childhood education and social justice. She is the brain behind our Girls’ Mentorship Club, Reading Enrichment Program, and Women’s Leadership and Governance Project. Moreover, Pauline has developed additional programs in accordance with Youth Exploring Solutions strategic action plan for 2015 which include, but not limited to: Speak Out Girls Panel, Young Women’s Speech Competition, as well as Giving Women Voices project. Her experience, wisdom, and professionalism have been a delight for our board, staff, and volunteers to be around. Because Pauline is a 100% volunteer who have not received any stipend from Youth Exploring Solutions that is primarily self-supported, she decided to do something uncanny as a graduating senior in order to liquidate her arrears and care for her family. She refused to just complain, but decided on an appropriate course of action. Late one night, she called me and said “Stephen, I have made up my mind to start selling doughnut in Red-light Market.” It was a complete disbelief for a senior student at United Methodist University to peddle doughnuts in the bustling and teeming Red-light Market. To my greatest surprise, I saw Pauline selling doughnuts the next morning. Pauline managed to put aside shame and refused to worry about perception emanating from other people. She was gradually able to scale up the quantity of doughnut sales and began to save some of her profits. Eventually, Pauline settled her tuition as well as paid some graduation requirement fees. Due to the success of the doughnut business, she has begun providing doughnut catering service for small workshops. Pauline also uses personal scarce resources to support Youth Exploring Solutions and lend her voice to making people achieve their full potential and measure of happiness in aspirating for a better future.Having seen Pauline’s work first hand for the last three years, I am certain that she is capable of doing anything she puts her mind to. She is a quick learner and most importantly a moral human with a heart full of compassion for people, and the challenges that face them in the 21st Century. Indeed, Liberia is lucky to have such an inspiring young woman possessing such brilliance and determination to make the World a better place.From the Xenophobia attack in South Africa, to the rising death toll of African migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, to the capture of school girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria, to post Ebola recovery in the hardest-hit countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, Pauline story resonates that good things can come from Africa’s oldest republic despite enormous challenges. It teaches us to look inward and believe in ourselves, and as well demonstrates that possibilities are endless in post-conflict Liberia in spite of overwhelming difficulties. It edifies us not to give up in life, but look for opportunities in the midst of crises.Now is the time to hold the ladder for Pauline to climb up to success. The time has come to give Pauline the opportunity and platform to excel in every aspect. From this moment onward, let us show to Pauline that she deserves a decent job, a country that cares, and a citizenry that appreciates her quest to acquire education, thirst for quality life, and passion to serve humanity. About the author: Mr. Stephen B. Lavalah is an advocate and the Founder & Executive Director of Youth Exploring Solutions (YES), a passionate, non-profit and voluntary grassroots accredited youth-led development organization. For more information about YES’ work in Liberia, please visit http://www.liberiayes.org. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Sheikh Kafumba Konneh was a patriot whose love of country was undying and unimpeachable. He was a man of God who saw God’s grace in all God’s people, irrespective of creed. He was an erudite religious scholar whose deep knowledge and proper understanding of the tenets of the Religions of Abraham fortified him to be a courageous and tenacious peacemaker when violence and strife captured our country. He was the last of the legendary trio consisting of Archbishop Michael Francis, Bishop Nah Dixon and himself who remained the moral compass of our society when violence, ambition and greed smothered truth, shattered peace and threatened to extinguish our common heritage.I have known Sheikh Kafumba for about 40 years and have watched his evolution from a magistrate devoted to issues of the Rule of Law and justice for the poor, to an early supporter and member of the Unity Party of Dr. Edward Kesselly in the mid-1980s, and his transformation into a distinguished religious scholar, understanding the deeper meaning of religion that binds us in our common humanity. Like Ibn Khalidun, the 14th century Islamic scholar, Sheikh Kafumba explored the intersections of religion, culture, science, and politics to embed tolerance, promote scientific knowledge, and build a peaceful, inclusive and progressive society. We owe Sheikh Kafumba Konneh an enormous debt of gratitude. The fact that our violent conflict did not degenerate into a religious war can be attributed in large measure to his efforts. He was the boldest champion for religious tolerance. I recall our mission to Libya in 1993 in the search of peace. As Colonel Khadafi lectured us about his African revolution, Sheikh Kafumba lectured him back about the detrimental role of the Libyan leader in the Liberian conflict. We sat in wonderment at the courage, eloquence, and profound analysis of Sheikh Kafumba at a time and in a situation where others would have been tempted to be opportunistic and sycophantic.I personally owe a debt of gratitude to Sheikh Kafumba for enhancing my understanding of the meaning of tolerance and for helping me deepen my appreciation of the diversity of our society and my respect for that diversity. Sheikh Kafumba dedicated himself to the struggle to end marginalization, ensure that we respect each other and use our diversity as building blocks for a better society and not as stumbling blocks to progress or walls to separate us from each other.I also owe Sheikh Kafumba further for rescuing me and taking me out of harm’s way when my life was threatened in 2000 when armed security men stormed the offices of the Center for Democratic Empowerment, violently assaulted the staff, plundered and destroyed equipment and almost killed Conmany Wesseh and brutally assaulted me. Sheikh Kafumba appeared out of nowhere, pulled me up from the ground and sped me off to safety.We thank you Sheikh; we honor you!To the family that nourished him, we say thank you; we will remain grateful to you. To the religious community he led, we ask that his virtues and values continue to guide you.To the Liberian society he struggled to preserve and reform, let us continue to deepen our appreciation of the richness of diversity and our respect for one another irrespective of creed, ethnicity, social standing and political persuasion. May God Almighty bestow his grace on us all. Thank you.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Neymar missed Brazil’s training session on Monday after appearing to nurse an injury knock sustained during their disappointing 1-1 draw against Switzerland.Team-mates of Brazil’s talisman Paulinho and Thiago Silva also reportedly stayed at the hotel gym while the rest of the squad took part in full training. 2 The PSG forward played the full 90 minutes but took a number of hits in the game, with Valon Behrami receiving a yellow card for his treatment of Neymar. Neymar is comforted by the Brazil team physio during Monday’s training session Neymar, 22, was fouled ten times in what was a frustrating opening game for the World Cup favourites.Philippe Coutinho gave the five-time winners the lead in the first-half but Steven Zuber levelled the game.Brazil head coach admitted the world’s most expensive player was “not 100 per cent” before the match, having both fractured his metatarsal and sprained his ankle in February. 2 Switzerland were very physical with Neymar Brazil will be looking to get their Russia campaign back on track when they face Costa Rica in their second Group E game on Friday – a game you can listen to live on talkSPORT talkSPORT will be with listeners all day and all night at this year’s 2018 FIFA World Cup™ with over 800 hours of World Cup content and all 64 games live across the talkSPORT network.