Sat Oct 22 03:58:02 SAST 2016

a girl's journey from war victim

By Thami Dickson | Nov 16, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

WE ALL grow up with dreams and aspirations, hoping that one day we will become "big people" and achieve big things in life.

For a while all these seem possible with strong support systems of family and people of goodwill around us, who encourage and back us up with the necessary resources to go on.

In fact some of us do realise those ambitions with little or no difficulty and set about living our lives happily ever after. But often the gulf between aspirations and reality becomes too huge for many.

Deep complexities of life soon take their toll and all those hopes and dreams we cherished soon evaporate into thin air, leaving us as angry and disappointed individuals consumed by extreme bitterness.

Under such circumstances it becomes easy to blame even the very existence of God or even take our own lives when we convince ourselves that our challenges are worse than everybody else's.

These are the troubling thoughts that visited and overwhelmed my mind when I was exposed to an astounding story of one 12-year-old girl's journey from a war victim to a special representative of the United Nations agency dealing with children facing distressing situations.

As a child in a rural village in Sierra Leone in West Africa Mariatu Kamara lived peacefully, surrounded by family and friends, with big dreams of becoming a big person one day.

But things tragically fell apart. Heavily armed rebel soldiers - many of them children themselves - who were fighting their political battles with the government, attacked and tortured her. In a brutal act of senseless violence they cut off both her hands and forced her to eat a mango.

With no hands the child stumbled along in agonizing pain and clutched the fruit in her bleeding arms.

The excruciating pain she must have gone through is unimaginable and how she survived is a miracle that reiterated the existence of a Higher Power. What joy her tormentors derived or political objective they achieved by inflicting such severe pain on a child is beyond me.

But the good thing is that there's an amazing inspiration that jumped out of this tragedy, which I wish could help all of us - especially young people - as we face the difficult challenges of life.

This tenacious girl rose up from those ashes. Today she is a 23-year-old university student in Canada, where she lives.

She has now written a riveting book entitled The Bite of the Mango in which she pulls together all the pieces of her broken life with courage, astonishing resilience and hope.

She relives the traumatic experiences of her young life, from the day she was forced to eat a mango with bleeding arms to growing up with her hands amputated, to being raped repeatedly while living in a refugee camp and having a child born out of that despicable brutality. She has also been appointed UN Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflicts.

This involves speaking to young people across the US about her experiences and those of many other young people who are still trapped in horrific situations across Africa.

This is an amazing survival story that should indeed encourage us to help children facing life threatening situations. It should also inspire us to complain less about our lives - however difficult - because our stories are definitely not worse than everybody else.

There are people who have been swallowed by the devil and survived.

Kamara's remarkable journey from a tortured young girl to an international speaker certainly shows that even the deepest physical and emotional scars can still be healed.

With her story we are once more being assured that no swords and arms or any other weapon formed against us shall prosper. Indeed, we will rise.

lThe writer is an SABC correspondent in New York


Login OR Join up TO COMMENT