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

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country 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.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid