Friday, February 20, 2009

war and peacemakers

i interviewed mariatu kamara today. she's from sierra leone - when she was 12, 'rebels' from the grandly titled revolutionary united front raided her village. they burned most of it to the ground and murdered many of mariatu's friends and family. they kidnapped her and her cousin and held them captive for most of a day. like many children born on the wrong side of the war, she was raped, tortured and had her hands cut off.

she managed to get away and ran through the bush. when she and her cousin finally made their way to freetown, the capital, nothing really got better. she begged for money on the streets and got what treatment she could. mostly, she just survived. she immigrated to canada in 2002 and got involved with unicef in 2007. that's what brought her to halifax - the 22-year-old travels the country telling her story and today she spoke to a hushed crowd at citadel high.

when she called me for the interview, she sounded exhausted. 'do i have to tell my story again,' she asked, seemingly to herself. i apologized and said we didn't have to talk, but she just took a breath and then told her story once more. she was warm, friendly and incredibly focused on doing a little bit of good in a world that had done her so much bad.

as soon as i put down the phone, i rushed over to dal. 150 students are heading south for their study break - to biloxi, mississippi, to help the community rebuild via habitat for humanity. it's been however many years since hurricane katrina, but things are still busted up down there. i spoke to aaron, an organizer, as the snow started to fall. he was answering a dozen phones and running around trying to make sure 150 students got on the six waiting buses. he'd already missed his cbc interview, but i managed to have a quick word with him.

i'm hoping to catch up with him for a follow-up story when they get back.


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