Lovetta was born just before her home country of Liberia exploded into conflict, another chapter in what became years of war.
Forced to leave her mother behind and flee her native Liberia due to civil war, Lovetta lived with her father as a refugee in Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire, before settling in Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana to await the end of the war. At times, financial difficulties forced her father to leave the camp to look for work and Lovetta stayed with various families, seldom in one place very long in the sprawling refugee camp of 47,000.
Despite the instability in her life, Lovetta quickly became a leader among her peers. She worked with a team of American volunteers to build a school for unaccompanied minors and distinguished herself by doggedly advocating for special education for sight-impaired children, motivated by concern for her young friend who was without educational opportunities due to his vision impairment.
During this time, she was spotted by Cori Stern, founder of The Strongheart Fellowship and subsequently met by other members of the Strongheart team. Based on Lovetta’s demonstrated inner resilience and exceptional leadership aptitude, she was chosen as the first-ever Strongheart Fellow.
Since that time:
She's healed. When she came to us, it wasn't easy for her or us. Months and months of work by all of us - talking, being listened to, firm boundaries, unyielding loving presence - combined with teaching her about how the brain actually works, the science behind it - had a profound effect. She's a different person now, with a level of emotional intelligence and health that surpasses many people who don't come from a traumatized background. She's open and strong - and willing to tell her story to help other people move past their own pain into a new life.
She's learned. Although she has her own amazing literacy when she began working with us she didn't yet read and had never heard of Rwanda, World War II, Judaism. She thought conflict was something only experienced by Africans. She now knows about world religions, tolerance, the Holocaust, genocide, history of her own tribe, ecology. She can find Liberia and many other countries on her beloved globe. After many hard months of work, she read her first book and took off like a girl obsessed. She's read biographies of Anne Frank, Helen Keller, and Helene Cooper, a remarkable Liberian writer.
She's unfolded on her own beautiful path. Her growth and service experiences are many as a result of her hard work and our own Strongheart team's dedication to her.
* She's created a beautiful line of jewelry made from bullets from the Liberian civil war, which is treasured by fans as diverse as kids from her refugee camp and humanitarians like Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, and Cheryl Saban. Her- and our - remarkable story has been featured in O Magazine, Teen Vogue, and Elle.
* She's establishing her next business - a teen magazine for African young people that will provide information on health and social issues as well as focus on African and World pop culture. She's already created a first issue, shot the first fashion spread, and is busy recruiting writers to execute her editorial vision.
* She's a no-nonsense champion of personal responsibility, exhorting African youth "to be the ones to work hard to build our own countries" in a piece she was invited to contribute by Kerry Kennedy and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights to a human rights curriculum for all Liberian school children.
* She's become a compelling public speaker in forums including The Aspen Institute, The Texas Governor's Conference for Women, and in schools across the country. She was named a YOUNG HERO by the Global Nomads Group in 2009.
* Most importantly, her compassion and sense of purpose is far-reaching; she's an outspoken advocate for other children and will soon travel to Cambodia to work with girls rescued from the sex trade.
* She was the one of two top candidates for the 2008 International Children's Peace Prize, given under the auspices of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate's Committee, by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The Prize is awarded annually to exceptional children who have demonstrated great courage or remarkable actions to help protect and improve the lives of children who face great risks or injustices.
* She was also invited to participate in a high-level dialogue for world peace, called the Connecting for Change Conference sponsored by the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education. While there, she met in a private audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other world change leaders - and shared her story of survival and resilience with them.
BULLETS ON THE STREETS OF LIBERIA DURING THE WAR
Lovetta created her Akawelle necklace in 2007 as a project for her Strongheart Fellowship, which requires that Fellows tap into their personal authenticity and inner drive to create an entrepreneurial project to benefit themselves and their home country.
Lovetta used spent metal bullet casings left behind from the Liberian Civil War to create exquisite necklaces. Each necklace features a leaf pendant inscribed with the word “LIFE” along with a metal bead that is the actual bottom of a bullet. The leaf is to symbolize new life and in Lovetta’s words “to show that even after something as terrible as war, new life can begin.” She says in Africa, everywhere you turn you are told “It ain’t gonna happen.” This jewelry is proof to her that, “Life goes on. Good can come.”
With the election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Lovetta's home country of Liberia, the first female President in Africa, Lovetta is anxious to help rebuild the country. Her incredible drive to help others comes from, as she puts it, "All of the people who have helped me. I want to help others the way so many have helped me." The profits from the jewelry are going to support Lovetta's future and to support Strongheart House.
TO PURCHASE THE AKAWELLE "LIFE NECKLACES" CLICK HERE