The Education of Mama Torh

One morning in 1999, in Monrovia, Liberia, Mama Torh decided to visit her new neighbor, Bendu. Little did she know that being neighborly would change her life.

“I am going to school,” Bendu informed Mama Torh during the visit.

Mama Torh was intrigued. When she was a child, her parents had not been able to send her to school. Indeed, there was no school in the village where she had lived. Now, she was the same age as Bendu and married with children. Was there a chance for her to go to school too?

Bendu told her that she was going to Imani House, a local place that addresses the educational and economic needs of poor "market women,” many of whom have been displaced by or suffered severe losses from Liberia's civil war. Imani House-sponsored programs emphasize literacy, health, and agricultural skills.

Mama Torh went back home and told her husband that she wanted to go back to school. The next day, with her new friend Bendu, Mama Torh walked to Imani House.

After paying a registration fee equivalent to 70 cents, she was introduced to her level one teacher. Over the next few months, Mama Torh worked her way through the alphabet and learned to write.

She also signed up for sewing classes and became the first graduate of the vocational program. She supplemented her skills by learning from local tailors to sew men’s clothes.

Today, Mama Torh is a successful businesswoman in Monrovia selling used clothing.

“Everyone has a destiny,” she says, “But it requires hard work, dedication, commitment, honesty, and readiness to reach your destiny.”

“Mrs. Torh is a smart and dedicated student. She has now graduated high school,” says Bisi Ideraabdullah, executive director of Imani House. “We are very proud of her.”

And this year, Mama Torh has set her sights on a bigger goal.

She has applied for admittance to the University of Liberia.