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Bloomfield resident heading to Liberia to teach welding

Group photo in Liberia

Bloomfield resident Don Craig (second from right) on his second visit to Liberia, in 2015. In the centre is former Liberian warlord Joshua Milton Blahyi, who now campaigns to help former child soldiers. Also in the photo are (from left) Liberian Bishop John Kun Kun, Craig’s son Cameron Butler, and Craig’s fellow Youth Unlimited team member Kat Higgins. Photo courtesy of Don Craig

By Makala Chapman [1]

BELLEVILLE – Bloomfield resident Don Craig is headed to Liberia [2], a former Ebola hotspot [3] and one of the 10 poorest countries [4]in the world, to teach welding to young people.

The 34-year-old millwright first visited Liberia in 2013 to build a school with the faith-based organization Youth Unlimited, and went again in 2015. Now he’s planning to return in April.

“I went and saw the country, met the people, fell in love with them and their story and just their drive to change,” Craig told QNet News in an interview last week.

“I was researching how best to help the youth,” he said. “It was apparent that employable skills were desperately needed.”

A millwright by trade, the Bloomfield resident said he knew his welding skills would come in handy.

Craig has been in contact with welding shops and welders in Liberia to form partnerships for training.

One of his more interesting partnerships is with Joshua Milton Blahyi, a former warlord also known as General Butt Naked [5] because he and his troops fought in the nude during the country’s years of civil war [6]. “He was basically the most feared warlord of the civil war. (He) and his men killed over 20,000 people and he admitted to it in congress,” Craig said.

But partway through the war, Blahyi turned his life around, and has since been trying to help former child soldiers. That is something Craig said he too is also passionate about.

He first met Blahyi on his 2015 missionary trip to Liberia. Blahyi told him then that there was a need for a block press machine [7] that makes clay bricks that are used to build homes and schools in Liberia. Here’s a video Craig took showing one of the machines at work:

“He has boys that can weld, but they don’t know how to build the (block press machine),” said Craig. “I could teach them how to build the machine and teach them some more welding skills they may not have.”

A hand up is more valuable rather than a handout for the Liberians, he said.

“They don’t want someone to just give them something. They want the skills to be able to do it themselves and earn their own way. It’s the multiplication factor. If you teach one person, at least five people benefit from that knowledge.”

Craig has been raising money for his trip for over a month on the crowdfunding website gofundme.com [8].

“It’s just another avenue to get the word out and for people to donate as well,” he said. “It’s been pretty cool how it reaches different people you wouldn’t normally reach.”

The donations will cover the cost of teaching materials, such as tools.

“I’m going to pay my own airfare and my lodging and everything,” said Craig. “The more funding I get, the more work I can do.”

Craig’s GoFundMe page [9] has raised $850 of his $10,000 goal.

“Every dollar makes a difference in someone’s life,” he said.