Inspire! with Laura Golakeh: One Way Ticket to Monrovia
- 16 Posts
- Age 26
Living in poverty is an experience no one wants to have. Hence many young people from poor and developing countries are seeking educational opportunities in developed countries such as the United States of America, Australia and countries in Europe and Asia, to advance their studies. Quality education is key to lift their families and communities out of poverty. However, a big challenge that most of these young graduates face is returning home after their studies.
This week, I had the honor of speaking with Laura Golakeh, the
Founder and Executive Director of Right to Read Liberia, a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow graduate of the
2014/2015 Gender and Peacebuilding class at the United Nations mandated University for Peace, and
a 2015 summer intern at the Wellsley Centers for Women. Amidst the
question from friends on why she is returning to home, Laura has
bought a one way ticket to Monrovia, Liberia.
Laura, thank you for agreeing to share your story with the
world. How about starting off with telling us about your
childhood and what inspired you while growing up in
I was born and grew up during the civil conflict in Liberia. My
childhood was "stolen". I took my first steps as a child not in
my home but on a battlefield. But I wasn't the only "victim". I
am grateful to be alive and educated today, because thousands of
children were killed; while some were conscripted into warring
factions. Others were raped and married off to fighters.
Today, although there are many theories about what may have
caused the conflict, one fact that keeps coming out is the high
level of illiteracy among Liberians. What is even more
disheartening is the reality that although strides have been made
after the crisis to address this, access to quality, integrated
and updated education is still a major challenge in Liberia. And
if we don't prioritize education, there is a high possibility
that we would experience a reoccurrence of a conflict. Education
has altered my destiny, and this is why I am committed to empower
What were some of the challenges you faced in pursuing education?
My family lost everything during the conflict so as a child, I had a taste of poverty. I had to learn and grow up fast because I had to fend for myself and my family. I didn't have access to electricity or textbooks. Sometimes I had to walk miles to school. There was no time to have fun or play like an ordinary kid. I experienced several interruptions in school due to the civil conflict. These factors affected my high school education in a lot of ways. I couldn’t afford to wear fancy clothes. I was bullied many times. There were times I felt like giving up. But I remembered the saying that goes “there is light at the end of the tunnel.” So I kept moving with a hope to see that light.
Congratulations on your MA in Gender and Peacebuilding. Why
did you decide to do Gender and Peacebuilding and how did you get
an opportunity to study at the University of Peace in Costa
Thank you! I was part of a youth project that showcased the
importance of young people working together despite their
differences. This group of youth leaders were the first to
initiate a project to build a statue of Africa's first female
president from Liberia, her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson
Sirleaf, in the Garden of Nations at the UN mandated University
for Peace in Costa Rica. I was part of the team that traveled
with President Sirleaf to dedicate the statue in her honor. While
there, I learned about their graduate programs; most especially
Gender and Peacebuilding. Consequently, I applied and got
admitted into the program. My final step was to justify to the
Government of Liberia, through the office of the President, that
supporting my quest to study Gender and Peacebuilding would
empower me to support the government’s effort in sustaining peace
Now that you have completed your studies, how challenging
is it to return home after experiencing the simplicity of life in
the U.S. and Costa Rica, compared to Liberia?
I was born and raised in Liberia. I grew up having little or
limited access to running water, electricity, easy
transportation, internet etc. The same way I readjusted my life
to the simplicity of life living abroad, I’ll readjust to the
life I once lived. Liberia is my home and I am going back home to
work along with my people to create the change we want to see. We
all want change, but controversially accepting change is hard
and, this is my fear. But, we will work to build a nation where
our children and grandchildren will never have to go through what
we went through.
What’s your vision for Liberia and the world?
My vision is to live in a society where quality education is
accessible to everyone, irrespective of their social
What advice do you have for your peers who are studying or
have studied abroad?
Liberia needs you more than any other country. If you have a
vision to make the world a better place you have to start at
home. Let us go back home and make Liberia great again.