At Amani ya Juu, we aren’t just making beautiful products, Amani is impacting beyond production. Amani women are developing themselves through higher education.
The Elizabeth Sumwabe Scholarship Fund enables women to realize their dreams through education. It was through Elizabeth’s courage and strength that her legacy lives on today. Read Elizabeth Sumwabe’s inspiring story and the stories of the women she has impacted.
Behind Enemy Lines
Elizabeth Sumwabe, close friend of Amani ya Juu’s founder Becky Chinchen, found herself separated from her children in 1992 during the civil war crisis in Liberia. Her children had travelled to visit their grandmother during a school break when the war broke out. Elizabeth was distraught with fear. She could not bring her five beautiful children home; the grandmother now lived with her children behind enemy lines.
Elizabeth tried everything she could to get messages to her children. She inquired with every traveler that passed by but could not learn of their whereabouts or be assured of their safety. At times, the silence would overwhelm her. She spent her days planning and scheming of ways she could find them.
One day, heavy with her sixth child, she decided to make a move. Since she could not travel within the country she traveled outside of Liberia passing through three bordering countries — Ivory Coast, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Often, she walked on foot, other times riding on a loaded truck or car, wherever she could find a seat until she was able to finally enter Liberia at a border point near her children.
After days of searching, Elizabeth found her children but could not embrace them. A body of water separated their reunion. Elizabeth could not draw closer as enemy lines were heavily guarded.
Late in the night, the children silently slipped across the water in a dugout canoe.
Face to face at last, Elizabeth looked at each child, unrecognizable. For months the children lived in the forest, surviving only on berries and roots, finding safety from heavy artillery fire.
A Joyous Reunion Lost
While Elizabeth fought back tears of emotion the children could only look on with eyes of trust knowing, because of their mom’s strength and courage, she would never give up until she found them. But the celebration of joyous reunion would have to wait; safety for everyone had to be assured first. Elizabeth returned with her children by the same circuitous route she had taken to find them, eventually arriving in Ivory Coast where she and her husband had been living as refugees.
Weary from fatigue and hunger Elizabeth went into labor. Neither Elizabeth nor the child lived, the joyous reunion lost in grief. Elizabeth’s legacy of determination, strength, perseverance and deep trust in God will never be forgotten.
While she spent herself to the point of death, extending her hand to the young and the helpless she taught us life’s greatest lesson: the inestimable value of living selflessly for others.
The Elizabeth Sumwabe Scholarship Fund is a special education support initiative at Amani ya Juu established to honor Elizabeth’s life and courage. Scholarships are given to women who live with integrity, who persevere in the face of adversity, who give selflessly of themselves and are driven by their faith in God.
We’d like to introduce a few of the ladies who have received a scholarship.
Lawoi, Liberia, is a senior education major at a local university. “In the rural Liberian setting, girls are being overlooked and used,” says Lawoi. She explains the many obstacles a girl must overcome just to receive a fair education.
Read more about Lawoi here.
Judy’s studies have built on her strength and fortitude to give her skills for the future: “My studies have opened my mind to have confidence in what I am doing. I want to make a difference in someone’s life, to make someone’s life better. God loves people more than anything, and I desire to work together with Him to help others experience His love–be it in a small or a big way.”
Five Amani women have graduated with BA degrees in Communications and Education
Catherine Nganga Maina
Two Amani women have graduated with a Business diploma