Past Present Future: Liberia

Background: History and Our Original Project

In 2003, a peace agreement ended fourteen years of internal conflict in Liberia. By then, the country’s infrastructure was decimated and hostilities between various communities were widespread. The fourteen years of civil conflict were characterized by violence, affecting the entire country. 

Ten years later, Liberians are rebuilding their country and its systems while recognizing the need to build “peace from within”. They are working to find ways to carry the memories of the past without being held back by them.

In 2007, Survivors’ Truths' founder Dove Pressnall had been working for two years in Liberia, training trauma counselors and supporting transitional justice processes. She was moved to document some of the stories of how people survived more than fourteen years of intense conflict (more background on the situation in Liberia) and interviewed Liberians about their wartime experiences — focusing on stories of survival. Interviews focused on the knowledge, capacity, courage, and connections that allowed Liberians to survive in an unbelievably hostile environment, while Chris Herwig captured portraits of incredible beauty.  Dove believed that these resources, which were sustaining in the face of unbelievable hardship, could be a foundation for rebuilding lives and community cohesiveness. These original interviews and photos weave together as a tapestry of hope and survival. The initial project exhibit has reached thousands of people, including Liberian diaspora, and was taken back to Liberia in 2010.

Survivors' Truths Liberia Today and Tomorrow

Today, the Liberia project is using the model of strength-oriented storytelling as a foundation for rebuilding lives and building sustainable ‘peace from within.’ In 2013, local staff registered Survivors’ Truths Liberia formally with the Liberian government as a peace-building organization and have been collaborating with the National Peace Building Office and other leaders to develop innovative approaches to supporting grassroots trauma healing and reconciliation.

Initiatives include:

  • PalaverNet - a self-supporting multi-media platform to connect Liberians around the world - from remote villages to large European cities -  through locally accessible communications technology, helping to bring their stories together.   
  • Peace-learning Conference - to bring together people from around the country who have been working at the grassroots level to rebuild and restore their communities.
  • Memorialization as Peace-building - developing materials and exhibits that highlight the strength, courage, and ingenuity of Liberians in the face of war.