[Image credit: Akawelle necklace]
Lovetta Conto is a gifted young woman on a mission; smart, determined to succeed and affect positive change. A few years ago at just seventeen years of age Lovetta set about turning bullets into beautiful poignant pieces of jewellery with a story; traded under the name ‘Akawelle’ which translates as ‘also known as love’. Born in Liberia, Lovetta was raised in a refugee camp after her family, like hundreds of others was forced to flee the civil war to Ghana. Lovetta’s story gives insight into life in the refugee camps; she speaks of the sense of despondency and hopelessness felt and how through it all she never gave up on her belief that there was more to her life and achieving her full potential; crediting her father with instilling this belief in her.
Lovetta’s journey shows how in the midst of darkness and despair hope can find a way through, it was whilst in the camp that Lovetta’s potential for leadership was spotted by the co-founder of the Strongheart Fellowship, Cori Stern and the talented teen’s life soon changed as Lovetta began a programme of travel, study and helping others in a similar situation to hers. The Strongheart Fellowship’s aim is to help young people with hard lives change their future in the hope that one day they too will help others. Displaying the wisdom of someone more than twice her age, of the Strongheart Fellowship programme Lovetta says ‘I’ve become stronger in my own broken places. That is why I say I am not ashamed of my past. It has made me who I am…’.
Lovetta initially had wanted to study law but eventually realised design was her true passion and faced a dilemma a lot of young Africans face when choosing a future career, our parents want us to do well and settle in a secure profession such as law, medicine, teaching and accountancy and don’t tend to see a career in design as being profitable or secure. I faced the same issues when I announced I wanted to be a fashion designer instead of studying law. Gathering the courage to follow her dreams, Lovetta is a fighter whose weapon of choice is creating beauty from the destructive ugly symbols of war and she transforms them into objects of beauty, symbols of hope, known as the Akawelle Necklace. Money from the Akawelle necklace goes towards Lovetta’s future and helped create the first Strongheart House in Liberia, where she lives with other young people who are going through hard times; in additiion to this Lovetta also attends the African Leadership Academy in South Africa.
[Image credit: Lovetta Conto – Strongheart Fellowship]
… Lovetta is a testament to the power of self-belief and following one’s dreams.