Liberian leader George Manneh Weah has petted former At-Risk Youth, graduates of the Detoxification and Rehabilitation Center, to keep their heads up and make Liberia proud following months of training, completing their first transition into normal life.
Speaking Wednesday, January 11, 2023, at graduation ceremonies of the youth held in Boy’s Town, Margibi County, the President thanked the graduates and extended heartfelt best wishes to them on their transition to a new and productive life.
“Go forth from this program with your heads held up high, and make Liberia proud of you,” Dr. Weah said.
The President recalled how it all began with the now transformed young people, reflecting on one of his regular visits to the Invisible Park when he encountered a throng of them hanging about in a deplorable state of living condition.
“I made a visit to the Invincible Park one day and saw many of them hanging around the park,” President Weah reflected on the fateful encounter.
“Many of them were not in the best of health. Many of them had problems with their teeth, their eyes, and other illnesses. I was so moved by their plight that I collected all of them that day and sent them here to be taken care of.”
“Today, during this Program, you have seen the very positive results of this initiative,” the Chief Executive said rather proudly. “They were given appropriate medical care, including the necessary dental and eye treatments.”
He continued: “They were put through an effective detoxification program, from which they have all benefitted. They were made to attend various training programs that would give them some basic skill sets. And here they are before you today, proud graduates of this First Transition Program, poised and ready to return to normal life with confidence, and with assurance that they are appreciated, and can now claim their rightful and respected place in our Civil Society.”
The President said he was delighted to witnessed and participate in the ceremonies “marking the first transition of some of our at-risk youth from this Detoxification and Rehabilitation Center” which was recently opened by his administration in Margibi County.
He also recalled the launch of the National Fund Drive for the Rehabilitation and Empowerment of the At-Risk Youth of Liberia, under the theme, “Reclaiming Our Youth for A Better Liberia” which was intended to raise approximately US$13.9 along with development partners, including the United Nations System, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the IMF, and the Diplomatic Corps, as well as the prominent members of the business community.
He said as a government, “we have made an initial contribution of US$1m to kick-start the Fund Drive, and we intend to provide an additional Two Million United States Dollars to be appropriated within this year’s budget to support this program.”
Dr. Weah said the first batch of the graduation of 35 former “at-risk youths”, their transition after detoxification is a manifestation of the seriousness that he attaches to this program and a demonstration of his personal commitment to rehabilitate these young people and fast-track their return to society as productive citizens.
“Funds are being raised under the Fund Drive, and other facilities are now being prepared to deal with the vast majority of these At-Risk youths, which some estimates suggest number more than 130,000,” President Weah said.
He added: “These programs are designed to orientate, rehabilitate, and build their capacities over the long term, through skills-based vocational training, as well as economically empowering them through jobs and business opportunities.
President Weah renewed his commitment to improve the lives of the young people of Liberia, “all of them, not just the youths that are at risk”.
“As a youthful leader of this country,” the President said it should come as no surprise to anyone that he holds young Liberians very dear and very close to his heart. Today, we are seeing the first step in a journey of a thousand miles.
He noted that the transition and transformation of the former “at-risk youth” is a significant first step because it is proof that “we can make a significant change in their lives and livelihoods if only we can combine political will with passion and apply it with compassion”.
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