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Mamady Konneh

Founder, father and former refugee

“My name is Mamady Konneh, and I was born in Liberia. My parents and I moved to Guinea when I was about 3 years old. I grew up in Conakry, the capital city of Guinea, and I went to school there till I graduated from high school. At 19 years old, I immigrated to the United States to join my family. Although I consider Liberia as my country of birth and Guinea as my country of origin, I'm fortunate to have roots in both countries.

“Coming to Wisconsin, which was the first state I resided in for 8 years, was really a big culture shock, and the weather was a big factor. I arrived in the fall, which felt cold for me. I had the impression that refugees occupied the back seat among all immigrants in American society. People usually do not regard refugees as skillful and/or educated – especially the ones from Africa – and yet refugees such as myself have contributed to the betterment of the American society.

“I personally don’t recall any stereotypes that were thrown at me as a refugee. I was preoccupied with school and work or I was not fully immersed in the culture to understand the subtle and/or upright stereotypes.

“When I first came to the United States, I quickly noticed that the definition of success was mostly based on material possession. I have nothing against this type of mindset, but it was not the one that I was accustomed to. My parents gave me an invaluable gift when I was growing up, and I did not appreciate it at the time. Every vacation, my parents would send me to my grandparents’ farm for three months where there was no running water and electricity. During these vacation times, I had the opportunity to learn a lot about the importance of hard work and community organization. The inhabitants of my village did not have much, but for some reason, they were happy, and made the best out of the little resources they had. Most importantly, they never complained and were always grateful for their health and family.

“Thus, my definition of success is whatever gets you up from bed in the morning without an alarm clock. It is that ‘thing’ that you enjoy doing day in and day out – even without any financial rewards. For me, that thing is helping people be the best version of themselves and live better lives. That is why I founded WeNetworkNow – a non-profit organization that connects people of African descent to opportunities through professional development and mentorship programs.

“My advice to all my fellow immigrants and refugees is that we need to understand that we are only stronger when we all come together and combine our forces and strengths for a common good. If we fail to do so, it will be challenging to bring about any real changes in our respective communities. We need to see our differences as strengths and leverage them to our benefit because, at the end of the day, we are all better together."

Photograph of  Mamady  Konneh
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