My birth name is Tenneh. I was born in Liberia, Africa. My earliest memory is the terror of seeing a soldier slit my father’s throat.I remember gunfire and screaming as soldiers burned our homes. My pregnant mother escaped with my sister and me. We lived in the bush until my sister became ill and died.My mother sent me to Guinea with a stranger,Ami Sibibe.I was 5 years old and I was a slave.I remember a time when Ami locked me in a room with no food or water for 3 days.At age 6 I was cooking and cleaning for her.She beat me if I spoke English(my family’s language)and threatened to give me to men.Within 2 years she sold me to Jene Keita in Conakry.They called me “Dog” and woke me at 4AM to cook breakfast for their children.If one spilled food I got a beating.I carried huge jugs of water to market several times a day to sell them.If I was a penny short I got beating.A man held me down while she beat me with a stick.I have a scar on my head from that and another one ofrom the hot iron she placed on my skin.Every day I prayed, “Dear God, if this is my life, please let me die.” At age 14 I ran away to a refugee camp in Boreah Kissidougou.I went days with no food.In 2005 I adopted the name of the Teoh family and came with them to the United States.I called myself Mateneh Teoh.I live in Pittsfield now with two sons.I became a citizen on 2/23/2011. My dream is to return to Liberia to find my mother.I don’t know her name.I ask myself why I am in this world.I don’t know any of my family. I have scars all over my body but the deepest scars from the war are in my heart and in my son.
– Mateneh Teoh