photo credit: IOM/Monica chiriac
“I was 12 and alone when war broke out in Liberia. I had to run away from campus and call my dad. He sent me money, and I bought myself a one-way ticket to Jamaica. I was young, but I was smart. I then went back to Liberia in 2009 for work. People are always surprised to meet a Jamaican around these parts.
My father went from Jamaica to Liberia to work as an engineer, and later moved from Jamaica to New York, but he still has a return citizenship. All of my brothers and sisters live in the US as well. I was the only one that didn’t get his US citizenship. I guess it was never something that I truly wanted. Liberia is a nice country, but they don’t accept dual citizenship anymore. They told me I had to renounce my Jamaican passport, that I had to choose, and I just couldn’t do that.
I have worked in many places: Liberia, Uganda, Kenya, and South Sudan. In some places it can be hard. There’s a lot of discrimination, people try to rob you or there are wars going on. It’s too risky. I met my current girlfriend in South Sudan. She was a refugee at the time so I took her and her daughter back to their home country in Ivory Coast.
In Jamaica people are simple. Business wise it’s not too good, but if you have enough money, you can start your own business. Still, a lot of Jamaicans end up going abroad for work. I was always in the car business, either driving or selling used cars abroad so I would like to buy a bus when I go back. I miss the beaches and the food in Jamaica; and the people - people love me there.
I have a three-year-old boy from a previous relationship. When I found out his mother was doing prostitution, I talked to the police and took him with me. He will have to go to the Ivory Coast for the time being. I wanted to take him with me to Jamaica, but I need time to get my life on track first. It’s hard looking for jobs and taking care of him at the same time. Sometimes I would be selling cars and he would have to sit in the car with me; I would be doing business with people and he would have to be there. It hasn’t been easy for us.”