A young Liberian in person of Amos Mulbah Lavalah, Jr. has benefited from a month long International Visitor Leadership project entitled “American Youth: Inspiring Leadership and Civic Participation” administered by Meridian International Center.
The program was intended to examine the concepts of democracy, government and citizenship, and their importance to U.S. civil society; to identify the skills necessary for grooming future leaders and explore methods used to develop these skills in critical thinking, decision-making, communication and organization, and building leadership capacity; to explore model programs that promote civic awareness and youth leadership in a variety of contexts such as schools, colleges, associations, youth clubs, sports programs, arts programs, interfaith-initiatives, and political advocacy; and as well to emphasize the importance of pluralism, tolerance, and volunteerism as components of civic life in the U.S.
Lavalah, who represented the United Brother Artistic Shop, was chosen through a competitive vetting process by the United States Embassy near Monrovia with direct supervision from United States Department of State. He was the only person to be selected from West Africa to participate in this prestigious program.
According to the youthful Liberian, he was privileged to travel to five States in United States of America, namely: New York; Baltimore, Maryland; Pensacola, Florida; Tucson, Arizona; and Portland, Oregon. He visited and stayed in Washington D.C. for a shot span of time and was opportune to have toured the City and went through orientation about American system of governance and society. The young entrepreneur visited the Department of State and met with Menaka Nayyar, Deputy Director, Office of Global Youth Issues.
While in Washington D.C., Amos was honored to meet scores of professional, experienced and well-schooled Americans from diverse organizations including: Karen Daniel, Vice President of Engagement from Youth Service America; David Premo, Public Engagement Specialist, Office of External Affairs; AnnMaura Connolly, President, Voices for National Service; John Hecklinger, Chief Program Officer, Global Giving Foundation among others. Besides, in Washington D.C., Amos also visited Microsoft Corporation, Innovation and Policy Center, where he met with Donna Woodall, Director, Citizenship & Public Affairs, Northeast Region.
In Baltimore, Maryland, he met with some officials of International Youth Foundation which aims to build and maintain a worldwide community of business, governments, and civil society organizations committed to empowering youth to be healthy, productive, and engaged citizens. The youth leader also discussed with several leaders of Playworks, a national nonprofit organization.
Moreover, during his visit to New York, Amos had the opportunity to meet with Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director for Programs of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and at the same time visited the famous World Trade Center and met with the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).
In Pensacola, Florida, Amos was welcomed at the City Hall by City Council Member Megan Pratt, who highlighted the historicity, economy and current demographics. He was then issued a certificate of ‘Honorary Citizenship’. Additionally, he met with many civil society organizations such as: PACE Center for Girls, Digital Media Education, Youth in Government Symposium, Workforce Escarosa and Student Taking Responsibility In Developing Excellence.
“I especially enjoyed the Home Hospitality in Pensacola with local families and average Americans portraying cultural and outdoor recreational opportunities abound in beachside community” Amos noted. Amos further explained that in Tucson, Arizona, he visited a number of voluntary and community-led institutions involved in different programs and projects to helping their communities. Some of the organizations included: Big Brother/Big Sisters, Youth on Their Own, Therapeutic Riding of Tucson, etc. He also met with staff in the District Office of Congressman Raul Grijalva to discuss youth issues.
The young Liberian final stop was in Portland, Oregon. He again was privileged to meet lots of nongovernmental organizations, student groups and civil society institutions which comprised of Oregon Mentors, The Bus Project, Girls, Inc., P:ear and the Leadership and Entrepreneurship High School. He also spoke at a roundtable discussion organized by Northwest Oregon Volunteer Administrator’s Association that was focused on best practices in volunteer management.
Amos stated that he acquired a lot of lessons from the International Visitor Leadership Program. He stated: “I learned many things from the program which have nurtured and inspired me to become more interested in volunteerism, entrepreneurship, organization management, youth’s role in decision making, girls education, gender equity and good governance”.
The youth advocate also stressed the need of young people most especially disabled and physically challenged youth should be given serious attention and allowed to participate in the decision making processes. He pointed out the young people who are drug addicts should be taken care of and accorded the desired services needed so as to enable them feel a part of and get involve in rebuilding war-torn Liberia. He further emphasized that mad youth should also be given treatment and opportunity to achieve their full potential. Amos also disclosed that young girls should be afforded the chance to go to school most especially girls who have dropped out of school due to pregnancy.
Meanwhile, Amos is calling on the Ministry of Education to include volunteerism as an integral course in the national curriculum for secondary, vocational, technical and tertiary students so as to enable young Liberians to be aware of the importance of volunteerism. He plans to work with the Government of Liberia, international and national institutions, faith-based organizations, community and youth-led entities to encourage more and more young people to get involve in volunteerism and entrepreneurship, because according to him, it is only through volunteers and entrepreneurs that Liberians can once again boast of a better society.
Amos also intends to use knowledge acquired to discourage young people from gambling and violence. He urges the Ministry of Youth & Sports to begin to support youth-led development organizations across the country so as to empower and equip young people with the necessary tools to transform and reform Liberia.
He also wants to Ministry of Internal Affairs to allow young people in the rural and urban parts of the country participate in the decision-making processes most especially issues of the county development funds, social development funds among others.