I survived Liberia civil wars to become an advocate for change

My name is Beyan Flomo Pewee and I was born in the slums of Konyamah, Guinea, in 1996 during the Liberian civil war.

My father and mother were no longer together and she had to fight to save her pregnancy and herself. This was a time when avoiding a flying bullet was more of a risk to life than an impoverished pregnant woman with limited access to health care. But, somehow, we both survived.

I arrived into the world as peace was returning to Liberia. My mother and I, along with my grandparents and other family relatives, returned to Liberia after the end of the First Liberian Civil War – a horrendous internal conflict from 1989 until 1996. The conflict killed more than 200,000 people.

When hope and peace did come, it did not last long and in 1999 the Second Liberian Civil War broke out. I was now three years old and living in Macenta and, later, Nzérékoré  for safety.

My grandmother was serving as a classroom teacher to support my mother and me.

I encountered challenge after challenge – and the process of living and learning was a rewarding experience. I believe that my story is an exceptional story and it left me with lessons, scars, insights and insecurities.

It forced me to grow up early, take control of my own life. It is the story that got me to where I am today – stronger and with a huge desire to make life a better place for others less fortunate than me.  â¨â¨At age 16, I was already involved in youth advocacy work. It was 2012 and I presented a talk on the children and peace building at the First Extraordinary Session of the Mano River Youth Parliament-Liberia Chapter in Lofa County.

I saw this as an opportunity to promote peace and advance myself. My talk was very well received and I was offered a scholarship to complete my secondary education.

I was excited, full of high expectations, and left for the capital city of Monrovia – where I could advocate for peace and get a real education for myself.

But let me tell you, my brothers and sisters, your hopes and dreams will rarely unfold as you foresee. To achieve your dream you have to be resilient, patient and adapt to the shifts and scars the world offers.

This part of my story turns out to be disappointing, frustrating and unbelievable. After getting all the assurances that my education was secured, I was not awarded a scholarship.

My family no longer had the resources to send me to school. This brought shame and disgrace to me as an individual arriving from one of the most rural parts of Liberia. This totally set back my plan to one day become a Nobel Laureate and United Nations Secretary-General. Without education how can I achieve these ambitions?

I walk many days to school without eating. I often stay on campus to prepare for the next day because I do not have the resources to take the bus to school.

Many of my friends have encouraged me to join them in earning a living – joining the growing mass of young motorcycle taxi riders, shop workers and day labourers.

But I believe in this cause. I cherish education and I have maintained my integrity.

But you are missing something from this story. You have not really been introduced to a boy entering manhood, to a passionate advocate for change, a caring, hardworking, young man who is an Honourable Youth Parliamentarian who has represented his country and community, his concerns, and fears, at international and national level.

You have yet to meet the Beyan Flomo Pewee who started his own NGO and works tirelessly for the youth of Liberia.

A story is complex, as has been my life. If one reflects on the past, one can feel hardship and pain, or one can discover lessons and hidden strengths.

My life has been hard but it has made me who I am today. I am a youth leader today because I took steps to overcome my situation and be the voice for my friends and my many brothers and sisters across Liberia and West Africa.

I leave this story now, although there will be many chapters ahead. Remember, hardship can be overcome, education is essential and I thank God and the J.J Roberts United Methodist School for my education to date.

My hope, my request, my humble solution for a better world is education.

Education will inspire and engage the youth of my generation. And, please, let people live up to their promises, especially when it comes to education.