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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid