My name is Mohamed Salia, 22 years old. I was born in Sierra Leone, a small country on the west coast of Africa. Sierra Leone experienced a ten year civil war that disorganized and claimed the lives of many innocent people. My experience in the war left a picture in my memory which later on, as I grew up, motivated me to put an end to violence and injustice. I dream of a world where all Sierra Leoneans can achieve justice and prosperity.
I can still remember the beginning of the war, although I was only 10. One night, our village was attacked by rebels. My father grabbed me from my sleeping mat, carried me on his shoulders, and ran into the dark bush behind our house. I was still feeling sleepy as he struggled through sticks and stones, running into the jungle. All I could feel was the cool wind and people shouting from a distance. He was running very fast. We bumped into a tree and fell to the floor. I felt a sharp pain on my left arm: it had broken. But there was no time for crying. My father grabbed me again and continued to run.
My mum and sister had also escaped with other families. We found each other again after two months. For two years we lived in the bush, surviving on fruits and small animals we could hunt. After a few months, food started to run scarce and at night we had to risk going back to our village in search of provisions. It was in one of these nights that we were attacked. My sister was captured, raped and killed.
The situation in our region became worse and my father took me to the capital. He was afraid that some of my childhood friends who had become rebels would forcefully conscript me. We became refugees and found shelter at the national stadium together with thousands of other war victims, sleeping on the floor, yearning for a life of peace. While at the stadium, two remarkable things happened which later marked the turning point in my life.
When I was 14 years old, two months before school re-opened, my father gave me 50 dollars to buy my text books. Three days later, my friend told me that his mother, a widow, had not cooked dinner for about a week because she had no money. They used to live from selling cakes, but the business had collapsed. While he was explaining, I remembered my text book money. The next day, I went to my friend's mother and explained that I wish to lend her the money to re-start her cake business. There was only one condition: she should return the money within two months, so that I could buy my text books without my father noticing. She started selling cakes again and exactly after two months she paid back the money. With the raised profits she bought another bag of flour to sell even more cakes.
Around the same time, my childhood friend Abdulia was captured by rebels and his family was killed. For many years I did not see or hear from him. At the end of Sierra Leone's disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process for rebels (DDR), I met Abdulia again. Happy to see each other, he told me about his experiences as a child solider. He told me that the government had stopped supporting the rebels after they were disarmed. Hence he could not continue his education, although he really wanted to. This was shocking news to me, knowing how brilliant he used to be in school. I wished I had the money to support him.
My encounter with the widow and the conversation with my long-lost childhood friend stimulated me to put an end to injustice, to do something for my country and my people. Therefore, I have started a social project called: SEED SIERRA LEONE (http://seedsierraleone.blogspot.com/) that have supported and empower 100 women and youths to start up or enhance their small scale business through microloan and entrepreneurship skills training.
With my desire and dream to start and run a successful venture with the aim to empower more venerable women and youths, I applied for the StartingBolc Fellowship www.startingbolc.org NY 15 training for entrepreneurs. I was very fortunately to be selected as participant for the NY15 training in New York coming August 2015, and with a full tuition scholarship of $1,250.
Now in order to be able to fully participate in the NY15 training, I am lunching a fundraising for my flight ticket to New York and logging cost while in New York for five days. Your support is very welcome as it will help successfullyattaend the training and come back home to economically empower women and youths affected my mining and now Ebola outbreak.
Thank you for your support!
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