Joe N'Danga Koroma

June 28, 1996

Former military cadet Joe N'Danga Koroma is now looking forward to a career in healing the scars of conflict as opposed to inflicting them.

He was heading for a promising career in the Sierra Leone army when he was thrown out of his military academy because of his involvement in the failed attempt to overthrow the dictatorship in 1987.

He was imprisoned for a week, during which he remembers being treated little better than an animal, before his military connections afforded him escape to Britain.

It was a traumatic experience. He was plunged abruptly into an alien culture, where he had no social standing, and waited a year before his wife and five-year-old son could join him.

He said: "At that time I felt depressed to the point I was suffering all sorts of physical aches and pains. There was racism too, and the underlying perception seems to be that refugees are somehow bogus, economic migrants."

After working as a security guard for a while, he gained a BA in law and sociology at London Guildhall University and set up the Association for Sierra Leonean Refugees where he helped counsel fellow refugees and asylum seekers.

However, he had yet to confront his own trauma and it was only when he was approached by the Red Cross regarding the ACT scheme that he took a certificate in psychology at City University and started psychotherapy.

He said: "The psychotherapy is helping me in a great way and I am using what I have learned to help others from Sierra Leone. It has given me the strength and belief that I will, in turn, be able to help other people."

He intends to combine his knowledge of the law, psychotherapy and practical counselling skills to enhance the service his association provides to other refugees from Sierra Leone and, eventually he hopes, from other nations.

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