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Chinese training program gifts vocation to Liberians

By Olatunji Saliu MONROVIA, Liberia (Xinhua) -- Despite the heavy rain, dozens of Liberians trooped inside a sprawling complex on the outskirts of the capital to learn how to create a future for themselves.

At the Chinese Bamboo and Rattan Training Center in the town of Mills near the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Stadium, they worked in groups with bamboo and rattan, making furniture, weaving and even planting vegetables.

The center is the result of government-to-government cooperation and the people who work here from morning to evening every day except Sunday are the beneficiaries of a Chinese assistance program in Liberia, begun in 2007 to develop Liberians’ vocational skills for a sustainable livelihood.

Over 800 Liberians, between the ages of 18 and 40, have benefited from the project so far.

Matthew Davis, who lost his father, an uncle, and two sisters during the civil war from 1989 to 1997, is among the current batch of 55 trainees.

“I decided to empower myself so I can find something to sustain myself and my family,” said Davis, who has been at the center for three years.

The 32-year-old told Xinhua he abandoned education and many of his life’s goals after graduating from high school since there was no money to pursue a college degree.

He joined the training program after hearing about it on radio and also through a friend, who encouraged him to give it a try. Now he enjoys creating new components from bamboo and rattan, which can be used to make furniture.

“My plan is to produce more materials so that I can be my own boss. I need to refine my skills so that people will be interested in my work,” Davis said. “I (also) intend to train other people and make enough money to go back to school.”

 

Chinese Bamboo and Rattan Training Center | Coastweek

 

  MONROVIA, Liberia (Xinhua) -- A Chinese instructor gives lessons to a local man for creating furniture at the Chinese Bamboo and Rattan Training Center in the town of Mills near the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Stadium, on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, Aug. 20, 2018. At the Chinese Bamboo and Rattan Training Center in the town of Mills near the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Stadium, they worked in groups with bamboo and rattan, making furniture, weaving and even planting vegetables. The center is the result of government-to-government cooperation and the people who work here from morning to evening every day except Sunday are the beneficiaries of a Chinese assistance program in Liberia, begun in 2007 to develop Liberians’ vocational skills for a sustainable livelihood. Xinhua PHOTO: Guo Jun

Rattan, similar to bamboo, is a local resource. It grows faster than other tropical woods of its species, is much easier to harvest and transport, and can be processed with simple tools.

The training here is offered free, with lessons given by five Chinese instructors. Apart from providing the materials used for the classes, the center also pays a stipend to the trainees to cover their food and transportation costs.

“Because we are being taught here free, I intend to do the same when I leave this place and set up my own training center in the future,” said Armiya Johnson, a 33-year-old single mother of five kids.

“I have been able to use these skills to take care of my kids (by selling) my products. I decided to learn this skill for my children’s future, so that I can (send) them (to) school,” said Johnson, who has been at the center for two years.

At the beginning, the program focused on training the unemployed and people affected by the civil war, said Nie Yongdou, who heads the center.

With youth unemployment in Liberia currently estimated to be as high as 75 percent of its 4.7-million population, according to UN data, the training program recently began to take in young people.

“Ten percent of the people taught here already have their own workshops. This project is small in size but we have really given the people a lot. We have given them a chance to learn some skills and use them to help in their development,” he said.

As the training continues, more and more areas of skill development are being added, like biogas demonstration, livestock rearing and citrus and vegetable planting.

Alice Gemo completed her training at the center a few years ago. The 30-year-old now owns a workshop inside the center and has trained over 100 people.

“I appreciate the Chinese government a lot for the program, the fact that they have opened this place for us, have helped us acquire skills,” she said. “I ask that they help us (more) in terms of funding, training, and (providing) technical skills. They should not stop, they should help train more Liberians who will be proud to say that they have helped Liberia grow.” 

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