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World ORT project boosts prospects for Liberia's next generation

World ORT project boosts prospects for Liberia's next generation

By Stefan Bialoguski, March 2nd, 2012

World ORT will help thousands of young Liberians to take advantage of their country's peacetime opportunities thanks to a USD 1.79 million donation from the Open Society Foundations.

This second round of funding represents an increase of almost USD 800,000 on the Foundations' initial investment in 2010. Since then, World ORT's Liberian Youth Training and Employment Project has placed 2,400 people in vocational training, more than half of them women.

"My Open Society Foundations are committed to supporting Liberia's future. Providing the country's young people with education and vocational training is the key for rebuilding the country," said George Soros, Chairman and founder of the Open Society Foundations.

"My initial investment in the World ORT programme has shown impressive results. It is my hope that this additional contribution will allow this programme to scale up." Now, as the country continues to recover from a brutal civil conflict, World ORT, in partnership with Open Society Foundations and USAID, will enable an additional 11,000 war-affected youths to expand their vocational skills through the new Literacy and Training for Employment Program.

The new programme goes beyond traditional areas such as carpentry and soap making to include food preservation, recycling, improved pottery and the farming of giant snails.

"This new grant will allow ORT to continue to create opportunities, build hope and generate income over the next two years in Liberia," said the Director of the Washington bureau of World ORT's International Cooperation division, Celeste Angus.

"We will help youths to use and strengthen their newly acquired literacy skills to increase their ability to manage livelihood producing occupations more effectively. And we'll continue to provide assistance to small businesses providing apprenticeship programmes to the targeted youth, and to help strengthen the national vocational and training system in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Education," she added.

The project, which starts in May, will generate sustainable livelihoods for people aged 13 to 35 who are benefitting from the Ministry of Education's Alternative Basic Education curriculum or the accelerated learning programmes for war-affected youth that were implemented by the recently completed USAID-funded Core Education for Liberia's Youth (CESLY) project.

It has three key components: in-school vocational training delivered by Master Trainers; out-of-school, non-formal vocational training - similar to that provided by World ORT's first training and employment programme - in which CESLY graduates are placed in small, local businesses as apprentices; and small grants to upgrade training sites and Grassroots Business Management Training.

The Literacy and Training for Employment Program will deliver nearly five million training hours to youths in some 150 communities, said Gary Walker, Chief of Party for ORT IC's TEP programme. More than three-quarters of the trainees will see their incomes increase beyond the poverty line, the effects of which will ripple out to benefit more than 50,000 people.

"Youth employment - what ORT is doing in Liberia - is so critical because it's really the basis for future stability in the country," Mr Walker said. "Liberia has come out of a 14-year civil war; it has poor infrastructure, low educational attainment, and the alternative of non-formal education is absolutely critical. So I think ORT is playing a vital role here in allowing young primary school graduates to have an opportunity to move from learning to earning."

He also stressed the importance of the new program's focus of operations in four counties - Bong, Lofa, Nimba and Montserrado.

"We're working in remote parts of the country, in villages where young people would otherwise come to the capital city and create more social and economic problems."

News of the Open Society Foundations' renewed commitment to ORT's work in Liberia will be greeted enthusiastically by the people there, said ORT IC Finance Officer Debbie Valencia.

"I was there recently and was touched by the warmth of the people I met and the hope the trainees had for their future. They often expressed their gratitude and their deep desire that the programme continue; Open Society Foundations' decision to renew their support is the answer to their prayers," Ms Valencia said.

World ORT is the world's largest Jewish education and vocational training non-government organization and has benefitted more than 3 million people - Jewish and non-Jewish - in over 100 countries since its foundation in 1880. Its International Cooperation division (ORT IC) has implemented more than 350 non-sectarian projects in nearly 100 countries since its establishment in 1960.

ORT IC's work has received support - and praise - from major organization such as the World Bank, Hewlett-Packard, USAID, the Coca-Cola Foundation, the United Nations and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 70 countries, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.

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