Govergo Akoi, after enduring a 14-year war of war lords, government oppression and life in a refugee camp in Liberia, has found a home in America.
He didn’t do it alone though. Through the sponsorship of Comfort Anderson-Miller and the Robert and Mary Anderson Charitable Organization, Akoi was able to enter the United States.
Akoi is in the process of implementing a plan of success. After jumping for joy because he was selected for immigration, phase one was complete. Now, he is on to the second phase of his plan.
“I came to America with a plan,” he said last week. “After arriving here, I must first get a job so I can pay my bills, then I will bring my wife Josephine and daughter Comfort here. I will then go back to school.”
He said Liberians often name their children after persons who have been kind to them. He named his daughter Comfort because of Anderson-Miller’s kindness.
Akoi (pronounced Ah-quee’) met Anderson-Miller during a relief effort called SIMBA, two years ago. While Akoi was helping with the relief effort as a Liberian citizen, Miller got to know him well enough to sponsor him. It took an application process of two years, ending in a lottery-type system until he was allowed to leave the country along with 40,000 others on a diversity visa.
Miller, who was recognized by the YMCA in 1998 as one of Richmond’s Outstanding Women, is of Liberian decent herself. Meeting her husband Elijah there, while he was training Liberian troops through the United States military, they were married. She has returned almost every year since the war began to help with relief efforts.
Akoi is not the only Liberian citizen the Millers have sponsored. They adopted Edward in 1997. Edward received a lot of press coverage when he arrived in this country being called the “boy without a nose.” He got the help he needed and then attended James River High School. He is now attending John Tyler Community College.
“In this world, when we have success, it is not what you do for yourself, but what you do for someone else,” Miller said.
Govergo Akoi entered America with a green-card status. A green-card status will force Akoi to become self-sufficient. If he doesn’t follow the rules of the visa, he will have to go back home. When one enters the United States on a diversity visa they are not to be a liability on the country.
Liberia was formed before the Civil War to allow free or freed slaves to leave America and start their own country back in Africa. They use the same pledge and constitution as the United States. Because Liberians speak English, Akoi will have a smoother transition.
Akoi said that war lords, with an army of many children ransacked village after village and he and his family were forced to leave there home. They ended up in a refugee camp. The opposing factions in the civil war killed 250,000 adults, 50,000 children and more than one million lost their homes. Akoi said everyone lost the life they once knew. The war lords were in-part after control of what has become to be known as “Blood Diamonds.”
Even after all of this, most people will say God is good and 85 percent of the population is Christian and have turned to the clergy for emotional and cultural support
“Liberians are friendly and hard-working people,” Akoi said.
After living under a tarpaulin in the camps his family returned to their home to find nothing but a flattened village. Many didn’t stay, but his father wanted his family to always know their ancestral home. First, they built a house from sticks and miscellaneous material found on their destroyed property. They lived there until, eventually, they constructed a house built of bricks and stucco.
The president during the Civil War was Charles Taylor and he overlooked the carnage because he was making a lot of money from it. He was exiled in 2003 eventually being extradited and later tried at The Hague for war crimes.
After an interim government, in 2005 elections were held and internationally regarded as the most free and fair in Liberian history. According to the article “Freedom in the World 2011 – Liberia,” Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Harvard-trained economist and former Minister of Finance, was elected as the first female president in Africa.
“People are free here, to come and go and say what they want,” Akoi said, who lived in Lofa County. “I like to talk to people so I can learn, and I respect two people in this world: children and the elderly. The elderly will always bless you and always help you.”
Akoi has settled into an apartment in Beulah and has began his search for a job.