Back in the days of armed turmoil in Sierra Leone, Madeline Albright was photographed holding a small girl whose arm had been chopped off by a local militia who regularly maimed the civilian population in a bid for power. The girl, whose full name is now Memuna Mansaray McShane, is the subject of an essay by Nicholas Kristof that reminds us that sometimes good wins out quickly.
“Those wrenching images of this girl, whose arm was amputated after she was shot, and other children whose limbs were hacked off by the militia built the global political will to intervene and end Sierra Leone’s civil war (Britain did the heavy lifting). I had been fascinated by the girl as an example of the power of individual stories to help end mass atrocities — and then I heard, from Albright, that she is now an American.
I dropped by her home in Washington and found 15-year-old Memuna Mansaray McShane, a wonderfully adjusted high school freshman who plays on her school’s varsity soccer and basketball teams.
‘In basketball, you only use one arm,’ she explained. She paused for a moment, and then acknowledged: ‘Except to shoot or catch the ball.’ Another pause and a sheepish smile: ‘I guess that’s a lot.’
She added defiantly: ‘I can do anything people with two arms can do. Except monkey bars.’”
Rotary International brought Memuna to the United States when she was four years old where she was adopted by a former Peace Corp volunteer who had served in Sierra Leone. Her new family gets much of the credit for how she was able to overcome such a horrific childhood trauma.
Read the full account here.