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Inside the _____

Inside the Volunteering of Torwon Krua

Inside CubeSmart-Boston Self-Storage

This is one of a series of stories we are sharing to show what’s inside CubeSmart. You not only get a peek inside our customer’s storage unit, but also a peek inside what is important to him. Thank you to Torwon Krua, customer of our CubeSmart store in Boston,  for sharing his story with us.

Torwon Krua, a refugee of the Liberian Civil War, spends much of his spare time volunteering for charitable projects that benefit his homeland. That includes collecting used school materials, such as books and pens and pencils, and medical and miscellaneous supplies, such as crutches and baby strollers, to send to Liberia.

The 40-year-old recently sent 30 used soccer balls after collecting them from 15 schools in the Boston area. Torwon made that his mission after learning students at one school in Liberia fought over the lone soccer ball in their possession.

"The girls wanted to play," he said. "They had no soccer for two years. One day, a girl took it away from the boy. There was a fight. She was suspended for a few days. When I heard the story I felt bad that the things we take for granted someone would get suspended for — just for playing with a soccer ball."

Torwon, a valet attendant for an office building in Newton, stored the soccer balls in a closet at his home in Roxbury. When his wife, Nancy, would open the closet, the soccer balls would spill out onto the surrounding floor and even under the table.

"I got in trouble with my wife for that," he said, smiling.

He further explained his motive during a visit in July to our Boston store at 150 William F. McClellan Highway near Logan International Airport.

"Sometimes, I had stuff that people in Liberia could use so instead of trashing them I kept them in my house," he said. "But at some point I couldn't keep them."

He now keeps them at our store, along with other personal items.

Torwon fled Liberia after nightly gunfire and the loss of friends and relatives who had been killed during the surging violence. The civil war in the 1990s left about 250,000 people dead. It was safer for Torwon to travel alone. Eventually, Nancy, their five children, and several nieces and nephews joined him, alternating time between a refugee camp in Ghana, where he and his wife got married, and apartments in Ivory Coast, where he received charitable assistance.

Torwon was given entrance to the United States through a federal refugee settlement program. He spent two years in Durham, N.C., before moving to Boston, where his family later joined him. Torwon said he enjoys the city's diversity and educational opportunities, despite the higher cost of living.

Torwon said he still thinks about life in those refugee camps. Ordinary, educated, employed families suddenly found themselves fighting for survival.

"I just want to make a difference for other people in those situations," he said. "They didn't create the situation, because politicians making decisions affect everybody."

It's more than just words for Torwon. He is a volunteer who welcomes refugees for the Greater Boston Refugee Ministry. "I tell them whatever goal you have you can accomplish something because there is a lot of opportunity here as opposed to your original country of birth," he said.

He also is working to form a non-profit organization called Tobacco Free Africa, another mission he took on as he saw a refugee teenager fall into the wrong crowd and take up smoking. Torwon said that led to worse behaviors — drug abuse, alcohol abuse and the possession of guns with criminal intent. Eventually, the teenager, who had become a hotel attendant and the breadwinner for his family, was arrested.

Torwon last visited Liberia in February. His dream is to return for the launch of Tobacco Free Africa, not only in Liberia, but also in Sierra Leone and Guinea. The three war-torn countries formed the Mano River Union to promote economic growth, cultural advancement and social progress.

For Torwon, it's not just about warning the population about the dangers of nicotine addiction. He also wants to introduce separate youth services. For Torwon, it's about inspiring hope.

About the author

Adam Bowles

Adam Bowles is the owner of Not With Ink, a digital media company in Jewett City, Conn. He spent 15 years as a reporter and editor for The Bulletin in Norwich, Conn., and has freelanced for such publications as The New York Times. His latest project is called The World in One Square Mile, a series of on-the-spot interviews for short profiles that demonstrate the need to take interest in others, listen to their stories and discover what unites us all. He and his wife, Luisa, have two daughters.

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