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Natalie Brown

"At first I was a bit worried that it is a man’s job and also working a lot around men but I have got used to it and I can stand up to men and do just as good job as them."

Natalie, a 23 year-old masonry student in our vocational training project in Liberia, interviewed by James Avery, Children in Crisis’ West Africa Programme Manager.  

How do you find the course? What have you learnt?

I really enjoy the course as it offers me a chance to learn new skills and in future get an income. I have really liked the ‘live’ projects we deliver with the support of trainers as it shows us what the job will be like once we graduate, we also get an opportunity to work together and earn small money. I have learnt how to do quantity and cost calculations, laying foundations & wall blocks as well as floor and cement laying. The additional adult literacy and numeracy courses have been really good too as I missed out on some of this when I was younger and it’s helped me with measurement and costing work.

Masonry is quite a physically challenging job, how have you found it? Do you have any other challenges with the course?

The work is quite tough but I am slowly getting used to it and now my body is feeling fine after the work. At first I was a bit worried that it is a man’s job and also working a lot around men but I have got used to it and I can stand up to men and do just as good job as them. My male peers are supporting me a lot with the course and the work which has been good too. 

The 'live classes' that Natalie was referring to. They were constructing a house, gaining some excellent practical experience and earning some money at the same time

An adult literacy class

What were you doing prior to starting the course?

At grade seven of junior high school I dropped out because I was pregnant. I tried to keep it from my family but it became very hard because of my stomach.  My dad was very angry as he would have to support me and the baby despite his age. The baby’s father is not around and decided not to support us so I have to do that myself. My dad encouraged me to take up this opportunity from FAWE/Children in Crisis to learn new skills and earn money.

What do you plan to do after graduating from the course?

I want to see myself differently; I don’t want to be sitting around doing nothing I want to be free to support myself and my family. When I graduate I hope to support my father to re-build our home and then think about a place for myself. I would like to get a job for myself to learn new skills and be someone’s apprentice as I want to continue to learn. 

Natalie's child stays at the vocational training centre's free crèche when she is doing her training

Do you have any suggestions for improving the course?

Originally I wanted to learn plumbing but opted for masonry, it would be good if a bigger range of courses were offered in future. Perhaps if we were able to undergo a multidisciplinary course that taught: electrics, plumbing, carpentry and masonry it would be a good start for our careers within the construction industry. I would also like some follow up support or courses so that we continue to improve.