A Coney Island immigrant is on a one-man crusade to help young amputees crippled from the “Blood Diamond” Civil War in Sierra Leone, Africa.
Alimany Kamara, 60, came to America and Coney Island in 1984 from Sierra Leone at the age of 37, raising his three children and becoming a regular parishioner at the Our Lady Of Solace Church, 2866 West 17th Street in Coney Island.
In the interim, between 1991 and 2002, the tiny country went through a bloody and brutal Civil War, fought mainly over Sierra Leon’s high-quality diamond mines, documented in the recent film “Blood Diamond.”
In addition to the fight over the diamond mines, the brutal war saw the rebels utilize a signature terror tactic of physical mutilation, where an estimated 20,000 civilians suffered amputation, with machetes and axes being used to sever arms, legs, lips, and ears.
Further, the war saw orphaned children become hardened soldiers on the battlefields, where tens of thousands of people died and more than two million of the country’s less than six million people were displaced.
“When I went back home [after the war], I saw people using children to beg for a living. I knew the [new] government wanted to help and realized that the orphans left behind needed schooling,” said Kamara.
In 2003, Kamara formed the non-profit Comfort Support and Care (CSAC) with the mission of alleviating poverty and educating victims of the war in Sierra Leone.
Once back in America, he went to Rev. Patrick West, the pastor of Our Lady of Solace Church, who agreed to help him start a fundraising drive.
“It’s an awesome thing Mr. Kamara is doing,” said West. “He’s done a lot and there’s a real need there. His biggest problem is raising funds and getting enough people interested in helping with the project.”
In early 2003, in conjunction with the governmental leaders of the city of Mekeni, Kamara delivered 450 relief packages to families in need.
This act of kindness helped Kamara gain the interest and trust of the tribal leaders and governmental officials to help him further his dream of educating the disabled and their family members.
Next Kamara announced plans to open a school that catered particularly to those with special needs.
Shortly thereafter, he rented a building in the city and hired volunteer teachers to run the classrooms.
Interest in the school for kids ages 5-12 was so overwhelming that some 600 students signed up for 200 slots. Since he started the school, 70 of the pupils have moved on to secondary schools, he said.
However, having to turn away 400 students who needed schooling broke Kamara’s heart and he decided he would have to build a new school or several schools to help him realize his goal.
That’s where the elders of Mekeni came forth again and donated a four-acre parcel of land for a primary school with 12 classrooms, a large assembly area and two offices.
However, to build the new school and continue the current school, Kamara is once again putting out the word in Brooklyn and beyond for funds.
As for a continued peace in the war-torn country, Kamara said, “The new government is investing in people and moving in the right direction. It looks like there will be peace.”
To donate or find out more about CSAC, call (718) 312-2337 or (212) 608-9797.
The organization can also be reached and/or donations can be made online by visiting www.csaconline.org.