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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.