AVIVA-Berlin: How important was it for you to write the book and did it help you to overcome the atrocities that you suffered?
Mariatu Kamara: I think it was really important to write the book. I was inspired by Ishmael Beah â€“ author of A Long Way Gone â€“ telling his story about being a boy soldier in the civil war in Sierra Leone. And I was encouraged by family and friends to tell my story, about being a victim in the war. Now that my book is published, I think it is important because I see how it affects people and helps them reflect on their life. I receive lots of emails and letters from people, who have a very positive response. Their problems are put in perspective. They are inspired by my story.
Publishing the book has helped me, too. It offers me a chance to talk about my experiences, to grow and accept myself â€“ to accept that I donÂ´t have hands but that I can be strong and focused and not judgmental towards others. Writing the book has helped me heal. When I share my story with others I sometimes come across people who have had similar experiences of trauma. This helps me realize that I am not alone. It helps me make a difference.
AVIVA-Berlin: You wrote a lot about the feelings for your son Abdul. Have you been able to accept that his death was not your fault, and can you remember him without blaming yourself ?
Mariatu Kamara: I try to live without blaming myself for what happened. I pray that God will give me more strength and courage to move forward with life and not just live in the past.
AVIVA-Berlin: You survived physical and emotional suffering that many people would not be able to bear and still you found the strength to build a new life. Do you know what it was that made you strong enough to get through all this?
Mariatu Kamara: In the first hours after my hands were cut off, I was alone. None of my family or friends were there. God protected me and I thank him for keeping me alive. So many people didnÂ´t survive. Or if they did, they were alone. Many of them committed suicide. I am very fortunate that my family was there in the camp with me and that they supported me and kept me alive. I know my family will always be there for me. When I think about that, that gives me the strength to go forward. I realize that God kept me alive for a purpose and I am looking forward to fulfilling that purpose
AVIVA-Berlin: On the last pages you tell about your ambivalent feelings towards meeting the president of Sierra Leone and how you finally decided to prepare for it. Did you accept that you would have to be a political symbol when you realised that this would be your best â€“ and maybe only â€“ chance that would make a difference to the people of Sierra Leone?
Mariatu Kamara: When I started working on my book, I didnÂ´t think I would become a political symbol, or that I would have the chance to meet the president of Sierra Leone. But that meeting was an opportunity for me to explain to him what happened: my own personal story. Perhaps that is the most powerful thing I can do. To offer my story and keep on telling as many people as possible what happened to me. Because what happened to me is similar to what happened to so many innocent victims in the war. The more awareness there is about this war and the ongoing poverty for the people in Sierra Leone, the more pressure there will be to change that.
AVIVA-Berlin: Does your past still haunt you in your daily life, or your dreams?
Mariatu Kamara: Yes, it does. What happened is not something you can forget. I try and live my life. But there are times when it comes back, and it affects me. I have my moods. But I think that is normal.
AVIVA-Berlin: What are you doing now in your new life?
Mariatu Kamara: I am in school at George Brown College in Toronto where I am studying social work to become a councillor/advocate for assaulted women and children. I hope to help other people in my profession.
I have also established a foundation â€“ The Mariatu Foundation â€“ to help people in Sierra Leone. The goal is to build homes for women and children in my hometown.
I am the right person to help because I experienced the same problem they did. I experience the same pain. I can offer assistance to help them move forward in their lives. People are still suffering even though the war is officially over. People are asking for help. When I go back to Sierra Leone I see people â€“ women and children â€“ begging on the streets. That is something I did. That breaks my heart. I had a second chance in life in coming to Canada. But they donÂ´t have that opportunity. The only thing I can do to help them is studying how to become a councillor, to establish my foundation, and to ask people to support my work to build homes for these people in Sierra Leone to help get them off the street. My biggest issue is to build them a home and give them training, so they can support themselves and help themselves rather than relying on other people. There are so many people that need counselling.
AVIVA-Berlin: You have spoken to people all over the world. How has your story affected them?
Mariatu Kamara: They seem inspired to try and make a difference, to help people. My story helps people realize that war and violence does not help anyone, it is only destructive. No one should experience that. My story opens their eyes to these situations. It opens their hearts to help people.
AVIVA-Berlin: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Mariatu Kamara: I will finish my education, get my degree, so that I can help people in a professional capacity to offer counselling. I will continue to work on my foundation so that I can offer safety and protection for women and children in Sierra Leone. There is a lot of work to do. But I am ready.
AVIVA-Berlin: Thank you very much and all the best!
Weitere Informationen zu The Mariatu Foundation finden Sie unter:
Weitere Informationen zu UNICEF finden Sie im Netz unter:
Weiterlesen auf AVIVA-Berlin:
Das MÃ¤dchen ohne HÃ¤nde von Mariatu Kamara und Susan McClelland.
FÃ¼r jedes Kind von Sabine Christiansen und Sir Peter Ustinov.
Lost Children von Ali Samadi Ahadi und Oliver Stoltz.
Frauen und Kriege in Afrika - Ein Beitrag zur Gender-Forschung von Dr. Rita SchÃ¤fer.