Former refugee transformed by Youth Empowerment Program

Lucina Kayee talks with World Vision U.S. President, Rich Stearns

Lucy was born in war-torn Liberia, a child of West Africa. She lived in a soldier-run refugee camp, suffered from hunger, and witnessed violence before coming to the U.S.

The man she believed was her father abused Lucy and kept telling her she'd never make it. She was placed in a foster home in Minnesota. Her social worker estimated that she was at least five years behind in school.

"I was kicked out of five schools by the time I was 12 years old," Lucy once wrote. "I hardly knew how to read and write."

She struggled with anger. Her counselor introduced her to World Vision's Youth Empowerment Program (YEP).

Along with a group of other Twin City teens, Lucy focused on community needs, did research, proposed solutions, and became an advocate. The group attended World Vision's National Youth Empowerment Summit in Washington, D.C., in 2011 and spoke to members of Congress from Minnesota about youth violence.

YEP Delegate Lucina Kayee lobbies U.S. Representative Betty McCollum

"I've been in World Vision for about six months and I want to keep on growing, keep on teaching young people that they can become something special in their lives," she told a reporter. "When somebody puts you down, and tries to break you down, you have to build yourself back up. That's what World Vision is for: to build young people up."

World Vision's national director for YEP, Derrick Wheeler-Smith, said young people like Lucy in the U.S. "have every reason in the world to be angry, to be frustrated, to be broken, and really to give up." Instead, he said, "they've made choices to not become victims of circumstances."

Lucy said her training through YEP made a profound difference to youth who gathered for the 2011 national summit.

"World Vision," she said, "has helped all of us delegates from different cities and different parts of the country to say, 'Yes, we can. As young people yes we can. We can do whatever we put our minds to.'"

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