Portrait of an Immigrant: Alice
Alice is an immigrant from Sierra Leone. Raised in a poverty, Alice’s family moved to Monrovia, Liberia when she was sixteen in an attempt to find a better life. It was here, at the age of seventeen, that she married her first husband.
After almost losing her life in childbirth, Alice developed a lifelong passion to help young pregnant women and completed her training as a midwife. Alice struggled through thirteen years of an abusive marriage until she finally found the courage to walk away from the relationship.
Alice married a second time. Albert was a senior government official, who would serve as Liberia’s Ambassador to Sierra Leone. As the civil war continued in Liberia the government fell and Albert was removed from his post as Ambassador. As a prominent leader of the opposition, Albert was assassinated on the morning of May 1, 1992.
Fearing the very real possibility that her family might targeted next, Alice sought asylum in the U.S.A.. She approached the United Nations and in December, 1993 she landed in Philadelphia. Alice, now a refugee, arrived in America with her children and $20 in her pocket. Without any sense of bitterness, Alice explained, “You never know when humbling times will come.”
At first the family survived on welfare and food stamps. “No one showed us anything,” remembers Alice, they were completely on their own. They had, “no chair, no table, only immediate needs. … No money for diapers, no telephone, they said it was luxury.” Alice notes, “There were challenges doing this, there were bad moments,” but then adds that, “God is so good, I’m sorry for grumbling.”
Within a year Alice trained as a nursing assistant and began working in group homes. Just as Alice had cared for others in Africa she continued to do so in the United States.
After five years in Philadelphia Alice moved to Minnesota where she studied to become an LPN (licensed practical nurse). The week of graduation in 2004 tragedy struck her life once again when her sister died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm. That summer Alice made her first trip back to Sierra Leone to bury her sister and be with her mother.
Alice’s compassion, drive and focus has remained strong, “All along my dream was to help young women and children.” In 2011 Alice founded Rural Health Care Initiative with a specific focus of reducing maternal and infant mortality rates in Sierra Leone. Alice explains that girls, “get married so early, sixteen or seventeen, and face lots of complications.” A key component of the work of RHCI is the construction of a birth waiting home, a place close to the health care facilities where pregnant women can spend the last few weeks of their pregnancy so they are spared the often long and difficult journey to the clinic after labor begins.
Alice has embraced all that life has thrown at her and continues to give of herself to help others. The construction of the first birth waiting home is well under way and lives are being saved because of Alice’s vision. She is, “so grateful to God that it’s coming to pass.”
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