Thursday, June 24, 2010

Making jewelry out of bullets

A teenager that found a way out of the Ghanaian refugee camps is now making jewelry that is worn by Hollywood stars.

Lovetta Conto and her father fled Liberia during it's civil war, crossing the border into Ghana separated them from her mother. At the age of 12, Conto was met by a worker from the US social enterprise Strongheart Fellowship that helped to get her out of the camp.

Conto made it to America and is now using a craft she learned in Ghana to much success. She makes necklaces that use pieces of bullets used in Liberia's civil war and changes them into a hopeful work of art.

From CNN's Inside Africa, reporter Mark Tutton tells us Conto's story.

"We had to flee to Ghana and leave my mother behind. We thought we would be safer there because our whole country was ruined," she told CNN.

"I felt alone because I was in another country where I wasn't really welcome. I always wanted to go back to my country. But you have no choice because your country is in a civil war and it's the only place you have to be."

Conto said her father had to leave her with other families while he went to work, trying to earn enough to send her to school.

"I didn't really go to school because my dad didn't have the money to pay my school fees, so I stayed home a lot," she said.

"Sometimes I would go to school without eating. I went to school hungry a lot and there wasn't much safe drinking water for people to drink and the water made people sick. There was just a little well and you had to get the water from there, and it wasn't safe."

In 2005, an American named Cori Stern visited the camp. Stern was the founder of the Strongheart Fellowship, an organization dedicated to helping gifted youngsters who have been displaced or orphaned by conflict.

Conto started making jewelry as part of a Strongheart project. Tasked with creating something that reflected her environment and the people around her, Conto came up with the idea of making something from a bullet fired during Liberia's civil war.

Conto came up with a design inscribed with the word "life." It's intended to show new life can arise from even the worst hardship. She has now sold hundreds of necklaces under the name "Akawelle," which translates as "also known as love."

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