Sitta Cole’s Story


I was born in Liberia, Africa, and I am the third of seven children.  My father was a fishermen and my mom sold fish at the market.  My life with my family was good until the war.  When I was seven years old the rebels waked my family up in the middle of the night.  The rebels dragged my mom out of the house by her hair, and the rebels beat our entire family with the butts of AK47 rifles.  They forced us 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 and ran away.   We walked for 4 days to Sierra Leone to a village so that we would not be killed. We had no food, no clothes, nothing.  At a refugee camp they gave us tents and bulgur wheat and rice.

Every day we had to get up at 5 AM and stand in line for several hours to get food to eat. My father went everyday to the river to fish and the rebels killed him.  For three years we lived in the refugee camp until we were allowed to come to the United States.

In 2005 I came to The Portland International Community School.  The teachers treated me with love and respect and taught me things I did not know before.  That is why I love the 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. 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.  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.  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.


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