Talk about making lemonade out of lemons: Lovetta Conto, a 16-year-old war survivor who was one of two top finalists for the 2008 International Children’s Peace Prize, has set an ambitious new goal for herself: to raise enough money to help move a family of orphans from the refugee camp where she grew up to a new home – back in their own country of Liberia. “The camp is closing and I want to help give them a beautiful place to live and grow.” For Lovetta, it will be her first real home as well.
Rather than simply ask for donations alone, this charismatic and resourceful young entrepreneur plans to reach her goal in a very unique and inspirational way – through profits from an exquisite line of jewelry she’s created by transforming hundreds of spent bullet casings found on the streets of Liberia following the devastating civil war that deeply affected her early life.
Lovetta has set a goal to sell 1500 pieces of jewelry in order to help open the house in time to move the first group of six young people (a family of orphaned siblings) from the refugee camp where she once lived in Ghana.
Lovetta’s drive and compassion were forged through heartbreaking personal experiences. Separated from her mother and country at the age of four during the Liberian conflict, she fled to Ghana with her father, where she lived for nine years with various families in refugee camps. She often went hungry or was sometimes beaten for trying to attend school without shoes or proper clothing. But her remarkable spirit persevered and she eventually found her way into working with a team of American volunteers to build a school for unaccompanied minors, and further distinguished herself by advocating for special education for sight-impaired children.
Her life took a radical turn three years ago when she was chosen to participate in Strongheart Fellowship – an innovative program for gifted and talented youth from challenging circumstances across the globe – including those rescued from child slavery, teenagers once abducted by rebel armies, young people orphaned by AIDS, and young survivors of extreme poverty and war. The program focuses on entrepreneurship, leadership, and creative activism. Through that program, she was required to create a “for benefit” business, a project that would combine commerce and compassion – benefiting herself, her peers, and her community.
Taking her cue from her love of fashion, Lovetta took spent bullet casings left behind from the Liberian civil war and transformed them into exquisite pieces of jewelry, creating a line she named AKAWELLE. Each piece includes a small leaf pendant made from melted bullet casings with the word “LIFE” imprinted on it to remind the world that “even after something as terrible as war, good can come and new life can begin.”
Her jewelry is worn by supporters as diverse as actress Hilary Swank, actor/activist/musician Mos Def, and best-selling author & former child soldier Ishmael Beah – as well as young people in the refugee camp where Lovetta grew up.
Profits from Lovetta’s AKAWELLE jewelry line are being used toward the opening of Strongheart House, where Lovetta and the orphaned siblings will live, along with other young people from across the globe. The simple but lovely home will serve as a learning community and home for the young people in the Strongheart Fellowship program.
In November 2008, Lovetta was chosen as a finalist for the 2008 International Peace Prize, an initiative of the KidsRights Foundation with the support of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and presented by 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.
In June 2008, Lovetta was featured as one of four young panelists at a Global Nomads Group event at the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival in Aspen, CO. Entitled “Against All Odds: Profiles in Resiliency,” the event was sponsored by the Bezos Scholars Program and was moderated by Pulitzer Prize winner Anna Deavere Smith. It attracted a sold-out crowd that offered two standing ovations. In October 2007, Lovetta was an honored speaker at the Texas Governor’s Women’s Conference where her speech received a standing ovation. In early 2009, Lovetta will be touring the United States to promote AKAWELLE – and will be honored as a YOUNG HERO by Global Nomads Group, speaking via video link-up to young people across the world.
This young activist is an inspiration to us all. Let’s support her magnificent spirit by purchasing one of these necklaces and spreading the word of her work by forwarding and reposting this blog.
PURCHASE THESE TREASURES ONLINE HERE: http://www.strongheartfellowship.org/akawelle/Jewelry.htm
Tags: AKAWELLE, Bezos Scholars Program, Desmond Tutu, International Children's Peace Prize, KidsRights Foundation, Lovetta Conto, Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Spiritual Jewelry, Strongheart Fellowship