A letter from… Liberia
Hard work and hope in Liberia
Last week I made two suits for women. I could sew three suits in a good week. I earn 250LRD [£2] per suit, so last week I earned 500LRD, but I need to earn more. I have trained for nine months in tailoring at the YMCA. I enjoy it a lot and it’s easy for me to learn. I still need to learn more.
I live with 25 other people in our house. Fifteen of us sleep in one room – all mothers and babies, cousins, children and so on. We all sleep on the floor on mats and mattresses. Last night the rain fell really heavily and flooded our bedroom. We put a pan under the holes in the roof, but the bed got very wet. When I start making money, I will fix the house. We need to break the house down and rebuild it in bricks. All my family would live in the new house. If my tailoring business goes well, I think we can do it between us in about four years’ time.
When I was five my mother carried me on her back through the bush to Guinea because of the war in Liberia. Our family left early in the morning when rebels attacked. At the time, young boys from 11 years up were at risk because they were forced to join the fighting group. My older brother was killed during the escape. I never attended school because my mother couldn’t afford it during the refugee camp life.
My mother sells clothes. She can buy them from Guinea and sell in Liberia and bring money home. My older brother is mining – buying minerals for sale. Another brother is a driver and one of my brothers is learning how to repair motor bikes in his friend’s motorbike garage in Zorzor.
My baby is one month old. Her father is from Guinea. He is 17 years old now. He is going to skills training school in Guinea. He is learning how to fix cars in a garage in Guinea. There he gets a little money to help me.
I need to spend 50LRD on soap [40p], 100LRD for food. I can buy baby clothes for 50-100LRD. When I start earning money I will use the money to buy food for my family. At the moment we don’t have enough food. We eat rice with potato leaves and cassava leaves.
I heard about the YMCA programme when I was in Guinea. I was living there for six years with my aunt, helping her sell caustic soda in the market, but she died. When I heard about the YMCA programme I decided to come back. I graduated last year. I’ve been working in the shop for three months. I feel happy about my future. I want to build my own house.
Fatu, 17, works as a tailor in Zorzor, Liberia. Her training was part of a Y Care International project which since 2008 has helped 1,700 of the most vulnerable young people affected by conflict in Liberia and Sierra Leone to gain professional skills, launch a business and get into work.
You can support Y Care International work with vulnerable young people like Fatu by visiting http://www.ycareinternational.org/, texting YGIV01 then your amount to 70070 or calling 020 7549 3175.
This article was published in the March 2014 edition of Reform.