Finding Hope in the Eyes of the Hopeless

Maisie Dunbar with members of the Liberian Returnees Network in Monrovia

By Maisie Dunbar

Unlike most diasporans, my recent trip to Liberia was about how I could give back and make an impact within the few weeks I was there; how I could leave Liberia a little better off than when I arrived.

My journey started a few years ago, in 2017, when I went home, I noticed the need and desire for trade education. Since that initial trip, I have longed to come home and empower the youth, which, in my opinion, is the next generation to move Liberia forward.

“We must empower them with hope, when they feel hopeless and steer them away from violence”, I  stated, “although it is not an easy task, by any means, but I know that mutual  respect goes a long way, even when the Liberianism shows up.”

What is Liberianism? Simply put, my definition of Liberianism is lies, tricks, etc. I am adamant in expressing why I am here there, and its not for that reason.  My journey has allowed me to learn so much over the course of my life and I try to let every Liberian that I interact with know my rules and what have impacted my life.

Since my first trip home, I have always tried to leave a sense of hope.  I believe I have been chosen for this journey.  “When I arrive home people whom I do not know, come up to me and render so much kindness to me simply because they recognize me and may remember me from a previous trip, doing an act of kindness”.

My mission in life is for every Liberian youth, with ambition to get on the right path, to make their dreams a reality.  I will do my part to make sure they remain hopeful in a hopeless environment. I look into the eyes of these kids and I see myself as a young Liberian girl, growing up in Liberia and all we knew was excellence. Everything around us screamed excellence! The youth today can not say that!”

During my weeklong trip to Liberia, I spoke at three schools.

The first school was B. W. Harris Episcopal High School located on Broad Street. Growing up, BWH did not have a Cosmetology program, so when I discovered that they had this program, I made up my mind that I had to make it my first stop on my give Hope to the Hopeless Beauty Conversations.  I was super excited to speak to the students. What was so profound to me was 5 young ladies out of the 60 + students, mentioned their aspirations of becoming doctors, ranging from plastic surgeons to OB-GYNs. I was very impressed!

Maisie Dunbar with students of B. W. Harris Episcopal School

In a society where everyone wants to work for government, I was happy “no one wanted to work for the Government or be a girlfriend to a Minister. Some are already working on their own products; some are self-taught makeup artists.  When I left the school, all I could think of was how can I help them stay motivated in such an environment”.

The next school I visited was NetLIB Vocational Training Institute – located in Congo Town.  At this particular school, I was super impressed with the vocational programs that they had in place, everything from fashion design to drafting. The programs not only provided skills but also provided job placement.  It is not enough to just provide a skill, but it is even better when you can give the youth a job.  I was so impressed with the number of women I saw in the electrician and auto mechanic classes. Men, lookout!

One story that blew my mind was when I met a young woman who stated that because of the school, she learned how to bake.  She now bakes her goods and goes on the road to sell them. Now she is an up-and-coming small businesswoman in the making.  The young lady lit up as she spoke about her business. How empowering is that?! It left me pondering and I walked away thinking, when the road gets rocky and it will, how does she stay hopeful?

Maisie Dunbar with faculty of B. W. Harris Episcopal School

The last school I visited was The Liberian Returnees Network (LRN) on Carey Street.  At this school I was so impressed with these women, ranging from fashion design, home economics, to cosmetology. As a beauty professional, I was filled with joy to see all of these up coming beauty professionals. At this school, these women made everything from rice bread to slippers.

I must admit, when I found out, that left me perplexed.  After they are finished with school, they have no placement — these are wives, and mothers in this program.  My cry to my fellow Liberians Businesses is to please go to this school and recruit. (I must say the pastries were delicious).

I visited the last two schools with the joint venture of ALBA (Association of Liberian Businesses of America) President Hawa Marvie. Hawa is for sure a like minded Liberian Women that sees Hope in the Hopeless.

As I headed out of Liberia, I could not help but ask myself the same question, did you leave Liberia the way you met it?  My answer to myself was NO! I impacted over 100 youth and women in one trip, with no money from anyone.  We can all do our part.  It all begins with one.

Please Join me, Maisie Dunbar and Let us all give Hope to the Hopeless!

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