By Mark Tutton, for CNN Lovetta Conto jewlery maker
June 24, 2010

Still a teenager, Liberian Lovetta Conto makes jewelry that is worn by the likes of Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry.

But Conto, 17, is no pampered Hollywood fashionista. She grew up in a Ghanaian refugee camp. And rather than using precious stones in her designs, Conto makes her jewelry from the casings of bullets fired during Liberia’s civil war.

Born in Liberia, she was separated from her mother at the age of 18 months as Conto and her father fled the country to escape its civil war. When she was five they made it to Ghana and spent the next nine years living in a refugee camp with 47,000 other people.

“We had to flee to Ghana and leave my mother behind. We thought we would be safer there because our whole country was ruined,” she told CNN.

“I felt alone because I was in another country where I wasn’t really welcome. I always wanted to go back to my country. But you have no choice because your country is in a civil war and it’s the only place you have to be.”

Conto said her father had to leave her with other families while he went to work, trying to earn enough to send her to school.
“I didn’t really go to school because my dad didn’t have the money to pay my school fees, so I stayed home a lot,” she said.
“Sometimes I would go to school without eating. I went to school hungry a lot and there wasn’t much safe drinking water for people to drink and the water made people sick. There was just a little well and you had to get the water from there, and it wasn’t safe.”

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