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Just west of Ivory Coast lies Liberia and its roughly 3.5 million inhabitants. Settled by free slaves from the United States in the early 19th century, Liberia fell into a 14-year dark period of civil war and lawlessness that concluded in late 2003 with the presence of ECOWAS and the United Nations. Today Liberia is slowly recovering despite inadequate infrastructure, unemployment at around 80%, and former combatants (many of them minors) who must be re-integrated into society. Many unemployed Liberians have put their hopes in friends and relatives living abroad in the United States. However, there is often a lack of communication and understanding between Liberians at home and those living in the diaspora. By partnering with African Refuge – a drop-in center for West African youth – and the Century Dance Complex in Park Hill, Staten Island (the largest Liberian community outside of Africa), and Amnesty International in Monrovia, freelance journalist Ruthie Ackerman aims to help foster a transatlantic Liberian blogging community.
Those Liberians who lived through the war — whether soldiers or not — experienced some type of trauma or displacement. By creating a community and sharing experiences with others, it has helped give these youth a purpose and vision that there is something larger than themselves. This will benefit the community (on both sides of the ocean) on many levels: Liberians, many of whom have difficulty adjusting to life in America, can reconnect with their families and dispel myths about what life is like in the U.S. There are also left-over tensions from the war, which may be able to be diffused through the dialogue created between the communities.