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Gyude Moore: A Leader for Liberia

Life experiences shape Bread member’s work

February 2012

When Gyude Moore thinks back on his childhood in Liberia, his memories are filled with color. “All the schools in Liberia had different colored uniforms. I remember those colors. It was beautiful,” he says.

Moore, a former Bread staffer and board member, grew up in Liberia in the 1980s and has vivid memories of life before the country’s first civil war broke out in 1989. He attended school and had dreams of a bright future. “We weren’t rich, but I remember we all wanted to be something. Kids wanted to be doctors and lawyers; we had dreams.”

Those dreams were extinguished as his community felt the effects of war almost overnight. Moore stopped attending school and spent his teenage years selling palm oil, dried fish, and alcohol made from sugar cane to help support his family.

Moore’s family was forced to flee to the Ivory Coast repeatedly because of the violence. Each time they had to walk 30 miles to a refugee camp on the other side of the border. During one terrible trip, Moore and his family watched as his baby sister died—she was too frail to make the trip.

Moore was able to finish high school in the Ivory Coast, despite difficult living conditions. In 2000, Moore was visiting a friend who had pamphlets from Berea College in Berea, KY, offering scholarships for tuition. Moore went online and applied, unsure of what the application would bring. To his great joy, he was granted admission and a full tuition scholarship.

When he left Liberia for America, Moore vowed never to return. “I said to myself, ‘this is it. I’m not coming back here. I’m done with this. There’s nothing here; no future, nothing,’” he says. He transitioned easily into life in America and suffered little culture shock, adopting America as his new home.

But his experiences with poverty and injustice tugged at his heart. Moore became a student activist, rallying others around justice and hunger issues, and started working with Oxfam America and Bread for the World as a student representative. He also majored in political science with a focus on international affairs.

After graduation, Moore joined Bread’s staff as a grassroots organizer, learning the value of working to influence the government to support poor and hungry people. “I learned from my friends at Bread that I can be part of the decision-making process that is putting into place the kinds of institutions that help people who are having a difficult time.”

Moore left Bread to attend graduate school in foreign affairs at Georgetown University. Upon graduating, he moved back to Liberia to serve as a special assistant to Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who recently won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize—with Laymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakel Karman of Yemen—for peacefully promoting women’s rights.

As the president’s special assistant, Moore serves a special function of aiding the president, but also providing support in her policy decisions. “I’m committed to this position because I want to be part of a process that will put into place the kinds of institutions that, in five years, will make this country much better than it is now.”

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