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USAID, CRS Challenge Youth To Become Productive Citizens

As Liberia continues its transitioning process from the scars of the 14-year of civil unrest which also affected the country’s youthful populations, the issues of sexual abuse and addiction to dangerous substances based on ignorance are now taking hold of Liberian society.

As a result, the government and various international partners and charitable institutions have now seen the negative impact of such lifestyles, in which an entire generation faces complete breakdown in the ghetto, while some females are being used as sex workers.

With passion and desire to help the government remedy the situation, the USAID-supported Youth for Peace (Y4P) Activity being implemented by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) on Monday, October 17 held a one-day dialogue with some disadvantaged youth in Monrovia.

CRS calls them Opportunity Youths to remove the stigma of their past or current life and inspire them for a better future.

With support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Y4P Activity which is a three year-initiative is aimed at “helping youths from disadvantaged backgrounds and conflict-affected communities contribute to peace within their communities.”

At a roundtable attended by the United States Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, Joel Maybury and other Representatives from USAID, and the CRS Country Manager, Abena Amedormey, opportunity youths used the occasion to explain their ordeals and called on the government and partners to holistically address drug abuse issues.

Explaining in detail, the disadvantaged youths, in a more passionate tone said, “Some of us were not like this. Some of us are also high school graduates but were forced to adapt to such a lifestyle by friends and to be honest, we are tired of living like this.”

Continuing, they said: “What is more frustrating is the fact that we are making the drug sellers and their children rich while we keep spoiling and doing all kinds of things daily. We hope and pray that the U.S. Government and other partners including the CRS can help rehabilitate and reintegrate us to become better people in society.”

When quizzed about the impact of past and current governments on their lives ahead of the upcoming 2023 general elections, the youths said, “We have always been marginalized by government in government out with no hope or care.”

“Every election, they will come to us, lie, and make big promises and at the end of the day, once they get into power, they will neglect and forget about us. Even when we see them in the street, they normally act like they don’t know us from anywhere.

“And some of us during the campaign, because of hunger and eagerness for cash, were also forced and used by politicians to carry on acts that would or might have destabilized the country’s peace and brought about chaos in Liberia,” the youths said.

Meanwhile, the youths, at the same time pleaded with the U.S. Government, USAID, and CRS to initiate a quick impact project that will enable them to talk to their colleagues about the importance of leaving their bad habits as well as becoming ambassadors for peace ahead of Liberia’s crucial 2023 general elections.

The youth who never held back their aspiration and joy for the gathering stated, “We are all happy today that some of us can get this opportunity to be sitting and talking with the Deputy Chief of Mission and we hope that you can help us with the needy support that will enable us to change.”

They also named the issues of funding, the creation of community centers, technical and skills training as well as empowerment programs as some of the quick-impact projects needed. They used the time to extoll the CRS team for the level of support and opportunity given them to change in becoming an Ambassador for peace in Liberia.

Though analysts believe Liberia is not a significant transit country for illicit narcotics, the country’s weak law enforcement capacity, porous borders, and proximity to major drug transit routes have contributed to the increase in drugs trafficking, according to the United States Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs’ 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR).

But in response to their ordeals, the Deputy Chief of Mission, Joel Maybury assured the disadvantaged youths of the Embassy’s fullest support to work with USAID and CRS as means to help initiate a quick impact project in the soonest possible time.

Ambassador Maybury assured that he will engage other partners in their interest on grounds that disadvantaged youth in most places around the world can be influenced by political parties by giving them financial assistance or whatsoever during the electioneering period.

“We have heard about violence during elections and the youth can be agents to steer things up and that’s not good. Disadvantaged youth can be very vulnerable to accept money to spoil or go out to do violent things in elections so there is a need for them to be rehabilitated,” he said.

He stressed that there was a need to work with other international partners to make timely and meaningful interventions to help the youth to play positive roles in the 2023 elections.”

He added, “We need to put things in some small businesses because all these young people have the potential to do small businesses. Liberians can start things small and do better and it will help them own something and they will not be used to instigate violence.”

For her part, CRS Liberia Country Manager, Abena Amedormey extolled USAID for the support given over the year, saying the Activity was a laudable venture.

Madam Amedormey said the youths have great opportunities and a bright future and vowed to continue working with them in making sure that their lives are improved and transformed.

The CRS is an international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. Founded in 1943 by the Bishops of the U.S, the agency provides assistance to people in more than 110 countries and territories in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe.

In Liberia, as in the rest of the CRS world, overcoming challenges is a long process, but changing people’s lives is not. The country program targets local communities in close collaboration with the Government of Liberia, the Catholic Church, and other partners to ensure that the success of our interventions is rapid and most importantly, sustainable.

CRS’ works in Liberia over the years have included both emergency response and development programming. In 2016, after intense focus on the Ebola outbreak, CRS Liberia progressed from recovery activities and began implementing development programming in thematic areas including peace-building and economic empowerment.

The country program has projects that cut across these areas with a specific focus on women, youth, community health, and systems strengthening. As with all other CRS country programs worldwide, CRS Liberia continues to provide relief services when emergencies arise.

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