My name is Sitta Cole. I was born on Oct.10,1990 in Liberia, Africa. I am the third of seven children. My dad was a fisherman and my mom sold fish at the market. My life with my family was good until the war. When I was seven years old my family was woken up in the middle of the night by the rebels. My mom was dragged by her hair out of the house and our entire family was beaten with the butt of AK47 rifles by the rebels. They forced to walk from our village to the city, beating us all along the way for two days. When we got to the city they locked us up in a house, but we later escaped. We walked four days to get to Sierra Leone. When we got to Sierra Leone my mom’s family greeted us with tears. They had heard we had been killed. My mom found about a program for refugees called UNCHR. We had no food, no clothes, nothing. They agreed to help us and they brought us bulgar wheat and rice and a little money and tents to live in for my parents and my brothers and sisters.
There were hundreds of tents set up for refugees in Freetown. We had to get up at five AM and stand in line for several hours to get food. My mom would leave every morning and go to the river where the fishing boats are. With the little money we had she bought fish. She cleaned the fish and put it in a tray and walked around the camp selling fish and she took the rest of fish three or four miles away to sell it in the city. With the money she bought food for our family to eat. My father went everyday to the river to fish and he was killed by the rebels. For three years we lived in the refugee camp until the UNCHR helped us to come to the United States.
When I arrived in Portland I was thirteen years old. We found a place to live and I attended Centennial high school for one year. I didn’t know anything about the rules and I got expelled from school. I came to Focus on Youth in 2008 and started learning photography. I attended all the classes and focused on my assignments and I was respectful of all the mentors. I always try to do my best in photography. When I am taking photographs I see the beauty and I just go for it. I love taking photos of different people. The beauty I see and am able to photograph makes me forget the painful things that happened in Liberia. Donna Lee was my teacher and the director of Focus on youth. She is an amazing kind person and she loves working with kids from difference countries. She loves to teach us everything about photography. I love her dog too. Donna Lee encourages me to believe in myself and she helps me achieve my goals. Every time we go out taking photos Donna Lee always tells me I am a great photographer. She encourages me to stay in school and do my best. I have made up my mind to become a photographer when I graduate, because I love taking photographs. Since being part of Focus on Youth I have learned to operate a camera and take photographs I am proud of. I enjoy learning Photoshop, and I want to learn to make my own website. We endured many hardships while living in a refugee camp before being granted asylum in the United States. I found the opportunities I was looking for when became a student and The Portland International Community School and joined the Focus on Youth Photography Project.