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End of Year Push on Messima School Construction

15556265_1351364411549805_1619182124_oOur co-founder and director of programs, Edward Fahnbulleh, has been in Liberia since August of this year, spending time with his family, and moving education in Liberia forward. The school in Messima village has come a long way this Fall, and we are hoping to do another big push on it in the next 3 weeks while Edward is still on the ground there.

The school (image above, taken last week)–although it doesn’t look very pretty yet–is a structure that we are really proud of and is making a big difference in the area. The government in Liberia has recognized it as a public institution and has begun to provide the basic services it provides to other public schools. People from all over the county have been visiting to see this new, fine institution. The students are learning so, so much. It may not look like it, but there are classes of dozens of students eager to learn happening inside.

Education is a human right and we all have an innate desire to learn. Let’s help the children in Messima have an amazing school to learn and grow in!

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Science at UCA

Most of our efforts at FUEL Youth these days are focused on finishing the school in Messima village, but our preK-Grade 9 school just outside Monrovia will always be part of the FUEL Youth family. In fact, FUEL Youth co-founder Edward Fahnbulleh recently worked to bring a trove of science equipment to the school, and has a science instructor for the University of Liberia helping to facilitate science lab work along with the teachers at UCA. Here are some recent photos from the science lab, as well as the computer lab, which is in use now more than ever, thanks our great staff and all the computer equipment we’ve been able to provide.

A model human skeleton gazed out the window of the science lab.

A model human skeleton gazed out the window of the science lab.

A set of equipment meant to teach and inspire and scientists and medical professionals of tomorrow.

A set of equipment meant to teach and inspire and scientists and medical professionals of tomorrow.




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Updates from Messima Village

Our school in Messima has come such a long way and the FUEL Youth team and the people of Messima are more determined than ever to bring this project to completion. The school, once fully complete and operational, will not only serve the children of Messima and neighboring villages, but also serve as a community hall, and a medical facility.

It’s no small task to complete, though. But we know that with support from our FUEL Youth friends and fans that we can get it done. We are just launching a campaign to seek out $52,000 in total funding to complete the school construction, including electrification.

In the immediate moment, however, we are aiming to bring in $10,000 by October 15. This will go towards completion of the bathroom facilities at the school, as well as the electrical wiring, door framing, and additional cement.

Thank you for helping us make this important contribution to the future of Messima. Below are a few pictures and a video that tells the story of Messima from a fundraising campaign a couple of years ago.







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The Ebola Epidemic

Ebola is putting everything we’ve done in Liberia at risk. A country trying it’s best to move forward after nearly two decades of civil war is now being ravaged by the ebola virus. School is cancelled for the fall semester and people are frustrated and scared. The government has little capacity to get the problem under control. They are calling for more U.S. government support, but it’s moving relatively slowly compared to the rate that the virus is. Aid groups are providing support, but more support is needed.

The situation with the government’s inability to respond is resulting in unrest, frustration, and fear–factors that could lead to civil unrest, and take Liberia in the opposite direction of where it’s been trying so hard to go.

As for the specific communities we work with in Liberia, neither have been directly affected by the virus, thankfully. But the situation is VERY vulnerable. Our school in Gardenersville is just outside Monrovia, and not at all far from where the virus is terrorizing people. It can spread quickly and easily, and our students and their families are all hunkering down at home in fear. No schooling happening.

Here is some additional background reading on the epidemic

Liberian President Pleads with Obama for Assistance in Combating Ebola, NY Times

The Worst is Yet to Come in the Ebola Crisis, WNYC Public Radio


Here are some charities to consider supporting, including one effort being led by a doctor from my hometown.

Bernadine Franciscan Sisters (this is the charity Dr Timothy Flannigan, from my hometown, is working for)

International Medical Corps

Or if you prefer to donate directly to FUEL Youth, we will make sure all funds go directly to the work being done to help with the epidemic in Liberia. DONATE HERE.

Supporting the effort to stop the spread of the ebola virus is important for Liberia, important for the world given the nature of the virus, and good for the work that we do as FUEL Youth in supporting education in Liberia. Thanks for your support.

-Sean O’Connor, co-director, FUEL Youth

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Messima School Update

This season the Messima school project has really taken off thanks to the help we received from our Messima School campaign at the beginning of the year (watch our video on the campaign, if you haven’t already). The roof is being framed and constructed, and a positive buzz is circulating the region, with Messima and surrounding communities excited on a planned September opening of the school.

Check back for status updates over the next couple of months. And in the meantime, a few pictures from the project site. Thanks!

A look down a classroom-lined hallway of Messima school.


Roof framing


The carpenter harvests and creates planks and beams for the school's roof from trees on the community's property.


The community invests in the school by providing much of the labor to build and construct the school building. Here, the shovels sand to be used for cement.

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Building a School

Our campaign is off to such a good start!! After just a little more than 48 hours, we are already more than 20% of the way there. In our messaging, we often say that we need to build these kids a school–and it’s true!! THe children of Messima and the surrounding villages deserve a chance to learn and we will make it a reality for them and build a school to benefit the entire community.

If you haven’t already, please considering supporting or sharing our campaign with your networks:–2/x/5737906

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A School and a Future

As FUEL Youth progresses with the building of the Messima school, questions are naturally raised regarding the community’s future. Currently, children from Messima and three surrounding villages use a three-room makeshift structure as their learning center. The schoolhouse is the place where these children learn the academic fundamentals that they will carry for the rest of their lives. It’s the place where essential early socialization occurs and where a sense of community is strengthened, so it’s important that their surroundings mimic the significance of their achievements and growth.

FUEL Youth believes that better facilities can only benefit the educational experience. FUEL’s blueprint of the school is set to include nine classrooms, an auditorium, a nurse facility, bathrooms, and an early childhood education center. This school is going to be the largest educational building within miles, and the people have taken notice.

“It’s not only big news, it’s the only news,” FUEL Youth co-founder Katie Yocum says.

The school doesn’t even have a roof yet, but the reverberations of the construction project can already be felt throughout Messima and its neighbors. The school will educate up to three hundred children. The auditorium will showcase their talents, extracurriculars, and other community-building activities. The early childhood education center will nurture Messima’s youngest citizens and transition them into learned childhood and adulthood, one where they actively seek out higher education. The nursing facility will be the first of its kind in Messima and surrounding villages, a major development in a place with limited access to any sort of medical care. As construction progresses and the school gains more attention, people will begin to relocate nearer to Messima with hope of an improved quality of life.

All this is cause for great excitement; it is no surprise that people are attracted to the school and all its prospects. FUEL Youth co-founder Edward Fahnbulleh already notices the school’s impact: “Every time I return to Messima, there is a new house. The community is developing.”

What is also new to Messima is a sense of unity. There is already a new Messima soccer team, a group of boys who get together regularly to practice. A choir will also be a main fixture of the school so that children can foster talents and hobbies beyond their ABCs. The school will serve as a community center where cultural activities can take place, and the outdoor lights will allow people to congregate safely long after the sun sets.

In a very real way, a new school is the catalyst for a thriving, self-sufficient, community-driven society. Messima’s school will change the village while shaping the young and energetic minds that will one day contribute to the same community.

As population, development, and community support grow, Messima will transform from a village into a town. With more people, the demand for civil infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, increases, and the likelihood of government-funded projects becomes all the more feasible. As the school attracts more families, they will bring their economic enterprises with them, and the community will benefit as a result. Not only will Messima no longer be isolated and unknown, but its growth will be natural and sustainable.

Eventually, the town will even be on the government’s radar. With this come voting power and the ability for the people of Messima to act on their own self-interests and betterment on a larger scale.

All this sounds like a slippery slope fallacy; it sounds impossible and illogical that one school can do so much good.

On the contrary, FUEL Youth calls it a “sustainable slope”. By building one school, Messima will matter.

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FUELing Youth with the Sun

Layout of UCA illustrating where the panels have been placed

Electrifying a rural area is more than a matter of simple illumination. Bringing light to isolated villages spurs economic development, makes that area safer for its residents, allows for increased productivity, and enables greater possibilities for students. A lack of electricity limits Liberia’s, and indeed the rest of Africa’s, capacity for productivity and progress: out of Liberia’s population of 3.7 million, only 2,000 homes are an electrical grid. That’s a lot of darkness.

Africa is simultaneously the world’s brightest and darkest continent; many African countries receive 325 days of sunlight on average, yet the continent as a whole generates only four percent of the world’s electricity. What’s more, where there do exist national grids electrified via traditional fuel-guzzling power stations, the continent is plagued with frequent power outages caused by the lack of maintenance and general sustainability.

It is one of FUEL Youth’s goals to harness the power of the sun and equip Liberia with schools and communities that are reliably lit. Receiving over 1600 hours of sunlight annually, solar capacity in Liberia is incredibly high but a lack of infrastructure and high installation costs prevent the region from realizing its true potential. Luckily, as solar technology becomes cheaper and more accessible, it is becoming clear that it is the energy source to invest in. The key here is sustainability (in every sense of the word) and taking advantage of Liberia’s sunny disposition. Solar power as a renewable energy source is sustainable for the community and for the earth. And after the initial costs of materials and installation, solar panels are economically feasible; in comparison to traditional electrification, electricity bills by means of solar energy are extremely cheap. Success of similar projects is evident in Liberia’s West African neighbors: rural electrification via solar energy has effectively lit up eighty villages in Senegal and 150 communities in Mali. It is clear that Liberia should follow suit.

The electrification of FUEL Youth schools via solar energy is an exciting prospect. Electricity enables night classes for adults (over forty adults currently attend night school at UCA), a computer library for the community, more efficient school administration, and a safer and more secure community at nighttime. In May 2012, FUEL Youth completed the installation of a system of solar panels for the United Christian Academy (see the image above). This system provides power to a series of interior and exterior high-efficient lights throughout the school. The best part is, the setup is scalable so that FUEL can make additions in the future, and adding more panels and wiring will allow an AC current to power high-efficiency laptops. FUEL also plans to make solar electrification a key component of the new Messima school; as building of the school progresses, well-lit classrooms and school grounds become more of a reality. Overall, these solar panels will change the way the community approaches education and will enrich the student experience. They will allow more reliable access to knowledge, which in turn will improve the livelihood of the community as a whole.

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A Source of Inspiration

The work of FUEL Youth to bring educational opportunities to Liberia was inspired in every way by the vision and hard work of co-founder and director Edward Fahnbulleh. As we move forward in our work, it is always nice to watch this video produced by Jennifer Crandall for the Washington Post, as part of her OnBeing series. Hear from our co-founder Edward and see why he inspired his fellow co-founders to get behind his dream and take action for Liberia. Enjoy and get inspired yourself.

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FUEL Youth Bracelets

FUEL Youth has had a great year in 2012: solar electricity lighting installed at UCA in Gardenersville; a new library for the students and community around UCA; our new school at Messima village nearly ready for the roof; and hundreds of Liberian youth continue in their education and development. Thanks to all of our supporters for an amazing year and we look forward to all we plan to accomplish in 2013 (including finishing Messima school!)

Please consider supporting FUEL Youth with a year end donation, or check out our Liberian-fabric bracelets for sale. Best wishes to all our FUEL Youth friends and supporters in 2013.

Photo: Boys reading in the new library at UCA.

Boys reading in the new library at UCA

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