Lovetta Conto is a 17 year old jewelry designer originally from Liberia. Conto makes jewelry from casings of bullets fired during Liberia’s civil war. Conto makes jewelry that is worn by the likes of Angelina Jolie and Hallie Berry. She grew up in a Ghanaian refugee camp. At the age of 18 months she was separated from her mother. Conto and her father fled the country to escape its civil war.
At the age of five, they arrived in Ghana and spent the next nine years living in a refugee camp with 47,000 people. “We had to flee to Ghana and leave my mother behind. We thought we would be safer there because our whole country was ruined, Conto told CNN.
“I felt alone because I was in another country where I wasn’t really welcome. I always wanted to go back to my country. But you have no choice because it’s the only place you have to be.” Conto told CNN that her father had to leave her a lot with other families while he went to work, to earn enough money to send her to school.
“I didn’t really go to school because my dad didn’t have the money to pay my school fees, so I stayed home a lot,” she said. “Sometimes I would go to school without eating. I went to school hungry a lot and there wasn’t much safe drinking water for people to drink and water made people sick. There was just a little well and you had to get the water from there and it wasn’t safe.”
Strongheart Fellowship, an organization founded by Cori Stern and dedicated to helping gifted young people who have been displaced or orphaned by conflict came in touch with Conto. When Conto met Stern, she was 12 years of age. Stern recognized Conto’s untapped potential and began efforts to get her out of the camp.
At the age of 14, Conto finally received a U.S. Visa; she left her father in Ghana and moved to America as part of the Strongheart program. Having struggled initially to adjust to her new life, this experience had begun to reshape her life. “In your life you are used to people not telling you that you can do more or you can be better or become a future leader or do whatever,” she said.
“Strongheart taught me, I could do anything if I put my mind to it and I could become whatever I wanted to be.” Conto is now helping other people by using a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of her jewelry to create the first Strongheart House.