News / Africa

Sierra Leone War Victim Presses On Despite Obstacles

Damba Koroma, a survivor of the 1991 civil war in Sierra Leone
Damba Koroma, a survivor of the 1991 civil war in Sierra Leone

For eleven years, the West African country of Sierra Leone was torn apart by civil war.  The war began in 1991, when a rebel group (called the Revolutionary United Front) launched a campaign to control the country’s rich diamond fields. The rebels attacked civilians in villages, using machetes and axes to sever their arms, legs, lips and ears.  Damba Koroma was only five when rebels cut off her left arm.  As a young girl she was brought to the United States, where she has just completed high school.

On the right arm and hand - perfect nails. On the other - only a memory of what once was there.  But Damba Koroma doesn’t dwell on the past. Cooking is one of her passions. Days before her high school graduation, she is enjoying making a salad in her cooking class. She uses special prosthetic tools.

“I find it really cool how you can make something really good and tasty that people will love and I love to eat,” she said.

Teacher Craig Scheuerman helped her get the cooking tools, which were donated by a non-profit foundation.  He says Koroma is one of the best students he’s ever had.

“I thought she had a disability, and clearly she did not.  She’s been phenomenal at working in the kitchen," he stated. "She can work as fast as someone with two hands.”

Her classmates agree, saying she is very helpful. Daryl Hale says he is impressed by her as she’s just a good person all around.  Josoph Jackson adds, she is willing to help and shares her knowledge with others.

Growing up during Sierra Leone’s civil war, Koroma recalls the day in 1997 when rebels attacked her village, demanding money from her mother who said she didn’t have any.  The leader of the group said Koroma would be used an example of what would happen if people didn’t give them what they wanted.

“They chopped my left arm off and then they did the same to my mother.  And then, after that they did the same to several other villagers who were also there on that day,” Koroma explained.

Damba says it took three days for her family to walk through the chaos to get to a hospital.  After that, she spent several years traveling from one refugee camp to another, seeking help from people in nearby cities.

“My mom and I, during the day, we would go inside the city to beg for money or for food,” she recalled.

While mother and daughter were in a camp for amputees, Koroma was given an opportunity in 2000 to come to the United States to be fitted for a prosthetic arm.  She was afraid to go back to Sierra Leone.

When her story became known, Sahr Pombor and his wife, Josephine, stepped forward to become her guardians in Alexandria, Virginia.

“I couldn’t image how much pain she suffered.  It just tore me apart,” he said.

The newlywed Sierra Leonean couple, who had come to the U.S. to flee conflict in their country, suddenly found themselves with their first child.  They would later have three daughters of their own. Josephine Pombor says her sister gave her advice about how to help Koroma adjust.

“Just grab the hand and kiss it, just tell her you love her and I did that a lot," Pombor recalled. "And as she grew older I began to notice that she was more confident in herself.”

Damba says she is not bitter about the loss of her hand.

“Even though I have one hand, even though I have pretty rough background, I’m not going to let it stop me from doing what I what to do,” she said.

Last April, Koroma went back to Sierra Leone for the first time since leaving for the United States.  She met with other amputees and spoke to students about never giving up.  She also reunited with her mother and other family members.

“I felt at home. I felt like I had been with them forever, even though I hadn’t seen them in almost 11 years,” she noted.

Koroma is going to college in a few months and hopes to study international development.  Sierra Leone, she says, is still rebuilding from war.  Her goal is to help build a hospital for women and children in the country.

“I’m really passionate about helping other people because it’s a way of giving back because a lot of people have helped me along the way,” she said.


You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Could Be in Use by January

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid