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LYDIA in Post-War Reconstruction and Rehabilitation in Liberia

The Goals of LYDIA are to help former refugee youths heal from trauma through art and community, to assist all young people who deserve to get their education and to have dreams for the future, and to create art that allows people to feel seen and heard in the world.

LYDIA's mission is put into action through two different programs, the Women’s Scholarship Fund and Youth House. The Women’s Scholarship Fund allows otherwise resource-less former refugee girls to pay their school fees, buy uniforms, and pay for food, transportation, and housing while they are getting their education. Youth House is a home base for teens where they can take part in hip-hop, theatre, and art after-school programs, youth groups, community building programs, and AIDS awareness groups. LYDIA hopes to give a generation of children the skills and support to get back on the path of rediscovering their identity and creating possibilities for the future.

In 2006, the NYU based Fifth Project Theatre Company and Prof. Daniel Banks ran hip-hop poetry and theatre workshops with the displaced youth living on Buduburam Liberian Refugee Camp outside of Accra, Ghana. Teens gathered to learn beat-boxing skills, write poetry, and create music in giant ciphers. We met so many open and talented teens, but at every workshop, there was one teenager who kept on surprising us. Her name was Lydia Mulubah. Lydia was a powerful MC and beat-boxer, and in the male dominated atmosphere of the refugee camp, her sense of self, fearlessness, and passionate voice in poetry and art was something we were blown away by! Right before we were to head back to NY, we learned that because of Lydia's family situation, she was going to be unable to continue her education. Lydia expressed how much her education meant to her, and so we set up a scholarship fund for her through RESPECT Ghana Program Coordinator Mr. Jenkins Macedo who along with several volunteers which include Afred Kayee, RESPECT Ghana, Assistant Program Coordinator. In December of 2006 Mr. Macedo was resettled to the United States through the US Refugee Resettlement Program and Mr. Alfred Kayee became the Program Coordinator of RESPECT Ghana’s activities at the Buduburam Liberian Refugee Camp in Ghana and was also very instrumental in the continuation of Lydia’s scholarship. He also leader of the RESPECT Dramatic Arts Club that Lydia Mulubah was an active member of.

In the past two years, Lydia has been doing well in school, (she graduated from 9th grade!) but recently, the UN refugee camp was shut down. 17,000 Liberian Refugees, many who have been away from Liberia, Togo, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone for as long as 15 years, all have had to leave Ghana, Lydia included. Alfred is also back in Liberia, but with constant violence, high inflation of food, and nowhere to live, the situation is very challenging.

At the moment Lydia is currently in school in Liberia and Danielle Levanas a former graduate student of New York University along with other students of the Fifth Project Theatre Company and Prof. Daniel Banks were instrumental in setting up a non-profit organization in Liberia with its branch in the US soon to be able to bridge the gap in the lives of refugee youth in Liberia through the arts, education, and community services projects.

RESPECT Liberia is an emerging member of the RESPECT International networks while Liberian Youth Determination In Adversity (LYDIA) is an organization that has been registered as a non-profit community-based organization directly working with youth in Liberia. Most of the current members of LYDIA were once member of RESPECT Ghana or the RESPECT Intellectual Club and it is very great to know that they are willing to volunteer in these harsh and difficult communities to reach the lives of others. I think this is great and this can be better if we only unite our limited and scarce resources in working with youth in these communities in Liberia. I think instead of working separately as LYDIA's and RESPECT's staff members in Liberia we could either get into a partnership or unify the two organizations to maximize cost and also reduce the issues of duplicating projects. Social change in today’s societies can only be possible when we network with likeminded individuals, institutions and organizations in accomplishing our set goals. That doesn’t in anyway means that RESPECT Liberia and LYDIA are going to emerge to become one entity, but building a partnership agreement that will benefit both organizations and at the same time fulfill their set objectives. Introducing LYDIA youth to the letter exchange program that RESPECT undertake will also expose those youth to other opportunities and widens their scope of the universe from the corners of Liberia. RESPECT International, the mother organization of RESPECT Liberia is part of a global network of volunteers and organizations that have the capacity to create awareness and education globally about situations that these youth are encountering in Liberia. In unity we can achieve all that we anticipate to achieve in a very short period and our limited resources will be cost effective.

We hope that someday both the staff of LYDIA and RESPECT Liberia can realize that working together makes changes possible. I am currently working with RESPECT Ghana and RESPECT International in making sure that RESPECT Liberia start to be an active organization in Liberia instead of one that is passive. I am also a board member of LYDIA and it is a wonder how LYDIA is growing so fast.


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