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Letters home: Liberia
© BBC News (UK Edition)
BBC World Service's World Today programme is looking at the end of year letters of ordinary people who lived through extraordinary events in 2003.
2003 saw renewed fighting in Liberia and a fierce battle for the country's capital Monrovia, with thousands displaced. In
August the country's long-standing President Charles Taylor, stepped down. This is a letter from Allen Lincoln, Executive
Director of Don Bosco Children's Homes in Liberia.
Until December last year we lived in Ivory Coast. We had to leave because life there was just getting too dangerous because
of the war. My brother was angry that I was not eager to join him in America. Instead we decided to return to Monrovia, which
we reached safely. Little did we know that hell would break loose in June of this year. There were guns - big and small -
everywhere in Monrovia.
Liberia's largest rebel faction, Lurd, was blasting Monrovia, the country's smaller rebel group, the Movement for Democracy
in Liberia, was in Buchanan and heading to Monrovia, the former government was struggling to survive.
We were horrified. There was death everywhere. We were starving.
Children were suffering, they were going missing. There were many child soldiers - they could be seen everywhere with guns.
Street children that I work with at Don Bosco Homes were suffering. I remember one incident that a caretaker of Don Bosco
Homes told me; he had to rescue the children from a night shelter in West Point under flying bullets to carry them to Congo
At that time I was not even with Don Bosco Homes. Only in September I was re-appointed executive director.
Things can really change; here I am again from where I left off in 1998.
Peace is returning, so is reconstruction. I am starting to pick up the broken pieces again. But the job is not easy, with the
disarmament and demobilization of the fighting forces.
At Don Bosco Homes we have to work with former child soldiers. There are many of them; poor kids; some of them are so
confused, they are so traumatized. When I look at them, children without childhood, and when I then think about my daughter
who has a loving stable home - I just want to cry. My daughter is now a young lady. She didn't go to school the last year,
but she has now started again. Maybe with hard work, blessing from God and help from the communities, many of these children
will experience childhood. Some may turn out to be good leaders.
As we say, one bad leader and you destroy the country; one good leader and you build a country.
All in all, this year has been good to me - with blessings in disguise.
Friday 26th December 2003