Mariatu Kamara

Mariatu Kamara was born in 1986, in the small village of Magborou in Sierra Leone.  As a 12-year-old child during the civil war in Sierra Leone, she had both her hands cut off by rebels with the Revolutionary United Front. She made her way, with the help of strangers and peace keepers, to a hospital in the capital, Freetown. There, she discovered that she was pregnant, having been raped by a village man named Salieu, just days before the rebels invaded. Salieu was twice her age.  At the displaced people’s camp in Freetown, Mariatu gave birth to a son, whom she named Abdul.  Sadly, the child died when he was 10 months old due to malnutrition.

To earn money for food while at the camp, Mariatu spent many years begging for money. She also became part of a theater group at the Aberdeen Refugee camp, alongside other amputees from the war. Through theatre, Mariatu and the others were able to raise awareness of her country’s humanitarian crisis. Humanitarian workers helped bring Mariatu first to London, England and then Toronto, Canada to get fitted for prosthetic hands. Mariatu never took to the devices and today, still living in Toronto, she is high functioning as an amputtee.

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She is a single mother to a little girl, is a college graduate and UNICEF special representative for children of war. Her book, Bite of the Mango, written with Susan McClelland, with a foreword by Ishmeal Beah has been published around the world and is on the curriculum list for a number of schools and universities. Mariatu’s long term goals include opening a shelter for abused girls and women in Sierra Leone (she has raised the funds for the purchase of the land); resurrecting the theatre troupe that she credits with playing such a vital role in her healing and recovery; and holding a summit at which child victims of war and child soldiers come together, share their stories and art and heal.

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