When the wounding is done, and you are left alone and bleeding, where can you turn in a war torn environment?

With your country impoverished by years of fighting, it probably won’t have the resources to help you. With the conflict over, the world has turned its back on your country, so little help may be forthcoming from international aid. With your family and friends dead or destitute, you may have few, or no, individuals to turn to. What options, then, are left? 2009 saw the publication of a book by a young war victim in Sierra Leone whose story has stunned readers and earned multiple awards.

Mariatu Kamara, at 12 years old, lived securely at home with her family. Although there was talk of war elsewhere in the country, her family had no indication that it was coming near them. So it was with confidence that she set out on a journey to a neighbouring village. Tragically, though, she was never to complete that journey.

On that path, she found herself confronted by rebel soldiers, some close to her own age, who were used to their powerful weapons and very adept at torture. For them, it was probably no more than another moment in a day as they cut off both her hands. For her, life was changed forever.

Mariatu, bleeding but alive, set out to find a shelter away from the fighting. As it happened she encountered a man on her journey who, out of kindness, offered her a mango. That simple act became a defining moment for her. The taste of the mango brought back to her the beauty of the life she had loved and lost, and motivated her to find a way to live again.

With blood streaming from her arms, she insisted on holding the mango herself: proof of her determination to work past the loss that had left her disabled. She would later call her story, ‘The Bite of the Mango.’

The book recounts the way Mariatu reached a refugee camp, collected survival money by begging in the streets of Freetown, and eventually, found her way to Canada. She is now an international speaker on behalf of people recovering from war.

There are few voices for those in post conflict situations and the agony they find forging a new life. Mercy Ships, a UK NGO that is part of the Global Hand network, is an exception. It provides free medical healthcare as part of its sustainable development support for the poorest nations of the world, through the use of hospital ships.

Mercy Ships has established a land-based centre in Freetown, the nation’s capital. The conflict left some 50,000 dead, and thousands more maimed or mutilated. The New Steps Centre in Freetown provides physical therapy and the creation of assistive devices as well as health care services, personal and community development projects.

So, when Mercy Ships saw an offer of crutches on Global Hand, they responded enthusiastically. These were, as it turns out, not just any crutches. Cool Crutches is a UK company that was set up by Clare Braddell when her daughter broke her back and was forced to use those supplied by the National Health Service. Their website promises coloured crutches that are funky and comfortable, helping boost people’s morale as well as supporting their mobility. The organisation sent out the crutches to Mercy Ships in pre-paid heavy-duty polythene bags.

imagelink_sierraleoneAs a Mercy Ships spokesman put it: “It’s an easy way to make a big difference.” They subsequently fitted members of the Single Leg Amputee Sports Club in Freetown at the New Steps Centre with the ‘cool crutches’ (photo, left). Many members of the club lost limbs in the war, but rather than dwell on the past, are using this opportunity to bring hope and inspiration to their country through sport.

Clare was grateful for the opportunity to partner with Mercy Ships. “Global Hand got us together”, she said. “Although I had heard of Mercy Ships, I didn’t click that they would be the perfect partnership for us. Mercy Ships need hundreds of pairs of crutches for war zones around the world, particularly Sierra Leone at the moment. If buyers of Cool Crutches could be bothered to go to the post office, when they are better, they might feel good about themselves, particularly if Cool Crutches pays the postage, and has labelled the bag, so that all they have to do is seal it!”

People of Mariatu’s ilk are an inspiration. Her very life is testimony to the fact that hope, even in the most wretched of times, can yet be found. At Global Hand, we consider the very least we can do is resource those willing to battle the odds and start over.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

Our food-saving superheroes

Every day, 3,600 tonnes of food waste are sent to landfill in Hong Kong, according to Feeding Hong Kong. Meanwhile, people...

read more ...

Recycling artisans make good news in Sri Lanka

When Sri Lankan artist Sagara Ranga Liyanage decided to start a handicrafts business, he had to think outside the box. "I...

read more ...

GoodCity: Multiplying kindness

“I don’t want to throw this stuff out. I want it to go to someone who needs it. If only there...

read more ...

Battling Covid-19 together

COVID: SAME STORM, DIFFERENT BOATS  “This pandemic has magnified every existing inequality in our society,” Melinda Gates said of Covid-19. She adds:...

read more ...

Each January, some of the planet’s most powerful corporate leaders gather in the small Swiss town of Davos to discuss how they can use their resources and influence to improve the state of the world. It’s the World Economic Forum, and this year, Crossroads was privileged to bring our Refugee Run to the event, giving participants a deep, though brief, experience of life as a refugee.

While we’ve been running simulations in Davos since 2009, this was the first year we were part of the official programme, giving us a new, unique opportunity to reach some of the world’s changemakers.

Refugee_run

We focused, in particular, on the escalating crisis in Syria and the plight of the refugees in the neighbouring countries. We brought aid workers from Jordan and Lebanon who spoke of the refugees they serve. Wonderfully, people of Syrian nationality attended too, including refugees.

simulations_Davos_2014_2

Those who took part in the experience ranged from the King and Queen of Belgium to leaders of multinational corporations, to Sheryl Sandberg (below), COO of Facebook, who spoke to the participants about ways to find peace in this troubled region.

simulation_famus_people

Many of the CEOs who attended were blinking back tears: people who are used to managing their international companies, but who found themselves feeling helpless and disempowered when confronted with the reality simulated. We had scores of comments that echoed one another’s themes.

‘I was skeptical but this simulation has been too powerful. Overwhelming. A call to action.’

‘A powerful way to seal our commitment to improving the world.’

‘Thank you for such an incredible and moving experience. I feel hugely compelled to take action.’ – Justin Keeble, Managing Director, Accenture Sustainability Services, Europe, Africa and Latin America.

‘While it can never compare to real trauma/resilience of refugees, Crossroads has a chilling simulation at WEF.’ via Twitter, Robert Kauffman, International Relations and Strategic Partnerships, Int Fed Red Cross and Red Crescent

‘I did the Refugee Run in a past year and found it to be amazing and life changing.’ – Jimmy Wales, Founder, Wikimedia

Company directors responded in many ways. Some spoke of renewed commitment to keeping factories open in the Syrian region so people could remain employed. Several offered to fund schools for refugee children in camps. One spoke of using the company’s solar technology to support the need for power in camps.

Raphael, former DR Congo refugee and now aid worker, shared his experiences and insights with participants.

The goal is, in a broken world, to be a crossroads: a place where those in need can be linked with those who can help. In Davos, we often feel that we speak to some of the world’s most powerful individuals on behalf of some of the world’s least powerful.

To see the full set of images from Crossroads’ Refugee Run in Davos, click here.

Want to book the Refugee Run for your organisation?

We’d love to talk! Click here or email life-x@crossroads.org.hk, or visit Global X-Perience for Crossroads’ full range of simulations, catering to a variety of individuals or groups.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

Our food-saving superheroes

Every day, 3,600 tonnes of food waste are sent to landfill in Hong Kong, according to Feeding Hong Kong. Meanwhile, people...

read more ...

Recycling artisans make good news in Sri Lanka

When Sri Lankan artist Sagara Ranga Liyanage decided to start a handicrafts business, he had to think outside the box. "I...

read more ...

GoodCity: Multiplying kindness

“I don’t want to throw this stuff out. I want it to go to someone who needs it. If only there...

read more ...

Battling Covid-19 together

COVID: SAME STORM, DIFFERENT BOATS  “This pandemic has magnified every existing inequality in our society,” Melinda Gates said of Covid-19. She adds:...

read more ...