"Sierra Leone had suffered a brutal civil war that lasted a decade and left tens of thousands killed, amputated and without shelter. The aftermath of the war cut deeper than any blade and left long term scars on Sierra Leone’s economy.
I faced two options – stay home where a dire future awaited me, or move thousands of miles away, take a scholarship I had won and build a brighter future for myself, my family, and those I hoped to impact. I left my home, Sierra Leone, at the age of 16 to pursue education in the United States.
I have felt a strong sense of purpose for as long as I can remember – to help minimize human suffering. My purpose has been influenced by my parents who sacrificed a comfortable life in the western world to care for the health and education deprived in Sierra Leone. Due to my experiences growing up in in Sierra Leone, I have chosen to alleviate human suffering by addressing health inequity, which I feel fortunate to say I have begun to address through my non-profit, World Health Equity.
Coming to the US represented an opening up of my world to opportunities that are non-existent in Sierra Leone. Among many others, these opportunities have included a high quality education that has empowered me to plan and execute global health projects to address maternal and infant health disparities not only in my home country, but in the US as well.
My first and lasting impression of the USA has been one of appreciation for resources I would otherwise not be have access to, resources I have been able to use to empower myself and others who are less fortunate.
I grew up without a computer or internet in Sierra Leone, and came to university in the US where everything was computer-based. I walked into a university lecture during my first semester to find students head down, working on an exam. I had no idea we had an exam on that day and had to take it unprepared. It turns out the exam schedule was posted on the university class schedule website, instead of communicated to students verbally in class.
I felt like I had been hit by a culture that was a century in the future compared to the one I had come from.
Following that episode, I checked the university class website religiously and made sure to double and triple check exam and homework schedules with professors following. I am also more conscientious about communicating things that may not be as intuitive to people from other cultures, in order to avoid a similar mishap in the future!
Being both Sierra Leonean and Ukrainian, I found it challenging, yet exciting, to learn and adapt to the American way of life. I have made a point to explore this experience in the USA to the fullest.
But this doesn’t go without a sense of longing for my home country. I miss the warm-hearted people, culture, food and beach each day.
Home will always be where my family is – Sierra Leone. However having now spent a third of my life in the US, I have begun to consider it home too.
I have made wonderful friends who have become my family in the US, and who make this melting pot of cultures feel more like home me each day."
Jennifer is the Founder and CEO of World Health Equity. She also acts as a consultant for Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School and serves as a One Young World Ambassador. This story was provided by i am a migrant's partner, One Young World.