When Damba was 5 years old, her tiny village was attacked by rebels. During the chaos, two men raped Damba and chopped off her hand. Damba's mother, Fina, pleaded for them to let her daughter go. In response, the rebels forced Fina to the ground and chopped off her hand, too.
Despite her own searing pain, Fina managed to hold onto her daughter, carrying her for three days in search of help. The two spent the next three years traveling between refugee camps to evade more rebel attacks.
Then, Damba's life was changed forever. An organization called the Friends of Sierra Leone was offering medical help and a new life in the United States to a small number of young refugees. Fina agreed to let her daughter go. "It was a terrifying moment. I was crying and my mom was crying. She had to let me go because she knew I'd get a better life [in America]," Damba says.