James’ story

The other night I found that not only did I have a little bit of time to myself, but I also had a decent internet connection, so I ended up binge-watched documentaries about Liberia. Some of the documentaries were as recent as this week and some were much older, but the common theme was something along the lines of turmoil.

Although I knew of the Liberian civil war that started in 1987 and ended in 2003, I hadn’t actually grasped the, what I think can only be described as, horror of the war.

For instance, I learned one of the “generals” had killed literally tens of thousands of people, even cutting open the backs of living children, taking out and eating their hearts and then feeding pieces of the hearts to his child soldiers to make them also be brave and invincible. This man now has been pardoned and is a pastor in Liberia.


As I watched and learned more, I realized this is a country full of people who did not go to school because they were children during those horrible years. They had no opportunity for education; all they could do as children was fight or pray to survive. And now, not so many years later, Ebola.

I found myself asking questions and seeing the country in a new light.

But I know not to believe everything on the internet so I decided to talk to James.  James is a Liberian man who has been working with Heart to Heart International since we arrived several weeks ago. His contribution to my time here so far has been invaluable. He has helped me navigate so many tasks that would have been difficult without his insight. He is bright, thorough, compassionate and perhaps most of all, passionately dedicated to helping others.

When I asked him about his life and the civil war, James told me stories even worse than I had seen in the documentaries. He saw gruesome things and I hate thinking that anyone – let alone a wonderful man like James – had to endure such horror throughout his childhood.

James surprised me by telling me after the civil war ended, he had met the general who ate the hearts of children. He was visiting a cousin’s house and the general was there as well. James said he was skeptical when he was introduced to the general but has since met him on a few occasions and believes the general is truly reformed.

Although James thinks the Liberian people are tired of war and don’t want more conflict, and even though he believes the general has reformed, he also admits he doesn’t honestly know what would happen if war broke out again.

While the civil war raged, James had the opportunity to go to Ghana to do his studies – and get away from the brutality. Like many others, he is now back in Liberia because, as he explained to me, he “just wants to contribute,” constantly aware of the feeling that he survived for a reason and a purpose.

James graduated university with a degree in marketing and sales, but it turned out he is more interested in helping people than in making sales. So when he returned to Liberia he started working with a local organization that runs a clinic in a rural area outside of Monrovia. Before Ebola, James was using his management and accounting skills to help run the clinic’s programs but now because of Ebola, that clinic, like so many others, is closed. James told me he is very grateful for the opportunity to work with HHI in our response to the Ebola crisis.

I’ve learned so much here in Liberia, but mainly I’m learning to admire and respect the Liberian people. I am so glad HHI has decided to get into the fight against Ebola. I want to help people like James have the opportunity to rebuild their country into the peaceful, healthful place they dream of for themselves and future generations of Liberians.