Author and UNICEF special representative Mariatu Kamara will discuss her horrific experiences during the Sierra Leone Civil War during a special appearance at Hanover College Friday, Oct. 18, at the Ogle Center.
Kamara was raised in the village of Magborou during Sierra Leone’s brutal 11-year civil war. At the age of 12, she was raped and impregnated by a family friend. Soon after, Magborou was attacked by rebel soldiers of the Revolutionary United Front. She was held captive for more than 10 hours. During that time, she witnessed many killings, including the man who impregnated her. The soldiers violently cut off both her hands and left her to die. She passed out after the attack, eventually regaining consciousness to find herself among numerous dead bodies and the village set on fire.
Kamara managed to survive, begging in the streets of Freetown for three years while living in amputee and refugee camps. Her son, when just 10 months old, died of malnutrition. In 2002, through the kindness of a Canadian family who read about her in a newspaper, she immigrated to Toronto.
Her journey – powered by courage, resilience and hope - is chronicled in book, “The Bite of the Mango.” Published in 2008, the work, written by Susan McClelland, chronicles the young girl’s inhumane attack, its aftermath and her eventual arrival in Toronto.
Kamara has traveled the world sharing her story, while also working on her own project in Sierra Leone. She is founder of the Mariatu Foundation, which seeks to provide refuge and healing for women and children in her homeland. She also serves as UNICEF Canada’s special representative for children in armed conflict and works with Free the Children to promote children’s rights and condemn the impact of war on children.
In 2009, Kamara was presented with the Voices of Courage Award by the Women's Refugee Commission.
The evening will also feature a brief presentation by Hanover senior Samuel Pyle, who escaped an orphanage in Sierra Leone and, after a four-year process, was ultimately adopted by a Louisville, Ky., family along with his two siblings.
Since coming to the College, Pyle has been a member of the Hanover’s track and field team and a student leader. He is the founder of Looking Back, Moving Forward, a campus organization that provides aid to children in Sierra Leone.
The event, supported by the Hanover Enrichment Series, will begin at 7 p.m. Admission is free.
Donations will be accepted to support Looking Back, Moving Forward.