How one man turned his life around after losing everything

Suleiman Turay ©BBC

Suleiman Turay ©BBC

I read a great story on the BBC website the other day and thought I’d share it with you.

It’s about 31-year-old Suleiman Turay, a man who survived the horrors of the Sierra Leone civil war in the 1990s, during which he witnessed the deaths of his brother, father and cousin. He was held captive during the conflict in a house by soldiers and only managed to escape after distracting them and running for his life.

After seeing his father brutally beaten to death he tried to start a new life with the money that was left to him but this soon disappeared on his father’s debts and Suleiman was left with nothing.

He set out for the capital, Freetown, with little more than a dollar in his pocket, and found work as an apprentice mechanic in a garage but in Sierra Leone apprentices have to give money to their employers, not the other way around, so Suleiman lived hand-to-mouth for eight years until he got a big break.

One day a man brought in a car that had been in a terrible crash. The mechanics took one look at the car and said there would be no way to fix it but Suleiman examined it and told the owner he would have a go.

He managed to bring the car back to life and the owner was so impressed that he brought in two minivans for Suleiman to fix up. After doing yet another good job he managed to get work as a driver, earning $10 (£6.50) a month. Being a driver who could also fix cars, he found his services were becoming more and more in demand and this eventually led on to his next job – working as a driver for the UN, which paid him over $100 a month.

He has since started work for the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) where a member of staff lent him $300 to buy his own car. He used it to start his own car hire and driving business and then made enough money to buy two more cars.

After living on virtually nothing for years, Suleiman’s hard work and persistence finally paid off and he now has enough money to build his own house on the outskirts of Freetown for his wife and two children, whom he hopes will have a far better education than he did: “I am illiterate and so is my wife,” says Suleiman. “My desperate desire is to educate them. And I want so much for my children to not experience a life like mine.” Suleiman and his wife are both victims of the decade long civil war which robbed their generation of an education.

Since the end of the war in 2002 the country has bounced back and last year the economy grew by 21%. The capital is currently experiencing a building boom, and with some beautiful beaches lining the coastline they could well be a popular tourist destination in the years to come.


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