Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Self-Help Program helps Trains Young Entrepreneurs

June 13 - I had the opportunity to go to a creative self-help activity under the Ambassador's Self-Help Program. It is run by a wonderful young woman who had been a recipient of our International Visitors Leadership Program, better known as the IVLP program. Her project seeks to train unemployed youth in the greater Lagos area, particularly the mainland area of Maryland. Under the Ambassador's Self-Help program we provided resources to assist with the training of 31 unemployed youth for free for three months in the areas of carpentry, fashion design, and food catering. The training center -- called the Foundation for Skills Development -- is a wonderful place that provides employment opportunities for many young Nigerians. In addition, even young people from the neighboring states of Ondo and Ekiti are coming to the Center to learn new skills. Most of the recipients are young women, and I had an opportunity to talk to each and every one of them during my visit (there were about 35 trainees there who had either been trained at the Center before or are currently enrolled). I had a conversation with each trainee and asked how the Center had changed their lives and told them they were leaders in their own right -- just by reaching out and coming to the Center to find a way to provide for themselves and their families. "Economic empowerment and independence," I stressed, "was the first step for anyone to have a better life." One young woman told me how much she was making for food catering and that no one could pay her the salary she was earning now because of the training she received at the Center. This was a great visit as it showed the power and synergy of two USG programs -- the IVLP and the Ambassador's Self-Help program -- where the leadership of the Center's Director and the additional skills she learned during her IVLP visits were brought back to help the development of her nation. The Self-Help Program was a tool she used to further the development of the young people of Nigeria. The Director also started a "Smart Kids" book program, another idea she picked up from her IVLP visit to the U.S., where books are donated to area schools. I had an opportunity to meet many of the kids and teachers involved in the Director's "Smart Kids" program as well. I really enjoyed my visit and meeting not only the wonderful Director, but the marvelous young people at the Center. My hat goes off to the Director, she is great!