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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

After the liberian civil war

At Amani, Annie or Ma Annie is the production manager and keeper of Amani's keys. She distributes paychecks and work activities, keeps inventory, records hours, and teaches how to use a sewing machine on Mondays. She shares how she survived the Liberian war with her family.

Annie pauses for a shot as she organizes zippers (Photo: Kirwan)


Living in peace. One unifying aspect of Amani Liberia is the daily devotionals led by rotating Amani members, complete with drums during worship. “Devotionals allow us to hear God’s word. Not everyone here goes to church, so sometimes this is the only place they will hear from God.” Annie regularly leads devotionals, and always directs the worship songs with intensity and passion. When asked what she liked about working at Amani, Annie promptly declared, “The unity, we work and live in peace together.”

Annie married her husband Jeremiah right after she finished high school on New Year’s Eve, 1989, five days after the start Liberia’s cruel 15-year civil war. Their four children were all born in the midst of the violence, or as Annie told us, “the heat."

The heat. Wartime experiences still haunt the couple. Fighters often dressed with bizarre accessories and behaved as though they were off to a rave. “When they raided churches, they would take the choir robes and wear them, or they would wear women’s weaves on their heads,” said Jeremiah.

Jeremiah, Annie, and two of their children outside their house  (Photo: Kirwan)

Now, whenever Jeremiah sees young men dressed eccentrically, feels panic. “Or when I see someone with a machete---my memories carry me back,” he says. The couple described the atmosphere during the war: “we might be sitting here, talking---just like now---and men would surround the house, demanding food. They might command the men of the house to come and carry something heavy, and if the load was too heavy, they were beat.

“My oldest son was born during the worst of the heat. There was no medicine available. We didn’t have salt or even soap”. As a result of the stress Annie was under during the pregnancy, he was born very underweight.

Reconstruction. After the war, the family moved to Yekepa so Jeremiah could finish school at ABCU. “I had nothing to do but take care of the children,” says Annie. “I started to sell coal, but people were buying on credit and not paying me back, so I did not make much money.”

When Amani Liberia held its fashion show last year, Annie learned about the organization. She completed an interview and began work in October 2011. The work Annie does at Amani helps pay for her children’s tuition.

“The future of my children is big in front of me, we just have to pray and trust God. I pray that when my husband graduates he can find a job and help the children in college.” An astonishing 85% of Liberians are unemployed, so obtaining a job after college is a harrowing task.

This story was originally written by Emily Kirwan
Emily graduated from Baylor University in August 2012 with a double major in Nonprofit Marketing and International Business. She is currently volunteering with Amani ya Juu, an organization which uses business to help women in Africa lift themselves out of poverty by creating beautiful accessories and clothing to be sold in the US. You can read more about her personal experience on her blog Emily Kirwan's Adventuring.