MONROVIA – The acute problems associated with finding lasting solutions to the plight of the disadvantaged youths, commonly called “Zogoes” in the Liberian parlance, will soon be the thing of the past as a massive rehabilitation program that will provide vocational training and skills acquisition is expected to commence soon in the country.
According to a philanthropist and humanitarian Liberian based in the United States of America, Mr. Patrick Suomie, his non-for-profit organization, the Diversified Integrated Vocational educational foundation (DIVEF), which he served as the Founder and Chief Executive Officer, is putting finishing touches together to construct a world class Rehabilitation Center whose BOQ has been put at a whooping $900,000.00 in Bloto Town, Margibi County, along the Roberts International Airport Highway.
Speaking exclusively to The Analyst over the weekend, Mr. Suomie said there are a lot of projects DIVEF has been contemplating on to embark upon in Liberia which will have far reaching positive impact on the country and its people, especially the vulnerable sector of the population but it has decided to place high premium on the disadvantaged youth of the spillover effect their status has adversely affected the society.
He said the issue of the disadvantaged youth is severe to the extent it has become a national security threat and there has not been any substantial measures put in place to alleviate the problem. He stressed that what has become more alarming is the rising rate at which the young people are getting addicted to drugs without any meaningful efforts from the government to curtail the situation.
“It is sad that the government is sitting down supinely while a large portion of our young people who make about 65% of the population are going down the drain. Some of them are involved in this drug addiction because of peer pressure, some got involved unknowingly to themselves, while another group got attracted to it from the war.
“It has reached the point where we should not be interested in knowing how these young people, both boys and girls, but how do we now get our acts together to rescue this generation of young people becoming complete liabilities in the country?” Suomie said.
He said the center, once completed, will accommodate, train, feed and ensure “our students in recovery are healed throughout the rehabilitation process”.
“Substance use disorder can affect the person struggling with it and their families and loved ones. We cannot deny that addiction harms families and can lead to negative consequences. Importantly, family therapy can be an essential part of our treatment plan.
“DIVE FOUNDATION is committed to improving communication skills and bolstering the family members’ understanding of addiction in supporting their loved ones with coping skills and behaviors”.
He said substance and drug abuse in Liberia is a major contributing factor to the destruction of many children, young men and women, adding that eventually this is leading to an increase in criminal activities because these youth who are mostly unemployed are engaged in criminal activities to support their hobbies. “We can recall that on 19 January 2022, at a crusade in New Kru town, 30 persons were reportedly dead after being terrorized by thugs with deadly weapons”, he gave an example about the effect of the unchecked rising rate of disadvantaged youth in the country.
“Around the world, addiction has become a predominantly known fact that must be addressed. In Liberia, most Liberian youths are on illicit drugs daily. Some of whom, and if not all, do not have any formal education. Therefore, such an environment needs rehabilitation programs, so we are here to address these issues. We will provide these youths with training in various vocational disciplines”, he said.
Commenting further on the foundation and intent of his organization, Suomie said DIVEF was founded in May 2022 in the United States of America and among other has some of its objectives as to empower underprivileged youths, seek to address the drug addiction problem that has plagued disadvantaged youths by providing accommodation and creating an environment for the underprivileged to obtain vocational education in different fields and social skills training as well as provide social and psychological support to clients and their families , job placement and access to leisure activities.
When asked how the funds for the project will be generated, Suomie said positive fundraising is ongoing but his own family run business which is a cleaning company LLC is the main source of funding. He also said additional funding will be sourced from USAID, UNDP, the US Embassy in Liberia, among others.
He discounted any insinuation that he could be in humanitarian work as a springboard to launch into national politics. “Absolutely no intention to go into national politics using this humanitarian endeavor.
“Our decision is based purely to assist our people who have fallen into this unfortunate situation that a normal person should not dream about. Circumstances led them to being part of that life and it is incumbent upon some of us who are blessed to be of assistance to them in order to change their lives for the better”, he said.
He said tentatively the construction should start in January, 2024 but they are exploring the possibility of commencing the project in late December 2023.