Henrietta White-Holder narrowly escaped the civil war that tore apart her native Liberia for much of the 1990s. She arrived in Providence as a teenager to help her sister take care of a growing family. Her upbringing in Liberia was actually relatively comfortable and middle class – she even attended an all-girl private school, St. Teresa Convent – but the increasing instability of her home country led her to seek a better life in the United States. That life did not come with ease, as Henrietta had to overcome her own teenage pregnancy and the difficulties of the public school system (she is a graduate of Providence’s Central High School), in order to make her way in a new country. Though she was far away from the brutal civil war back in Liberia, her family was not spared its ravages, and she lost a brother to the violence. She later went on to work in human services, running group homes for 18 years, and has an intimate understanding of the struggles that people on both sides of the Liberian diaspora experience.
That understanding, and Henrietta’s belief in “peace, hope, and dignity” for all people, led her to found Higher Ground International. Like Henrietta herself, the organization bridges the gap between Providence and Liberia. Providence is home to one of the largest Liberian populations in the entire world outside of Liberia, and a sizable population of immigrants from many other West African countries. As Henrietta says, "We have a very rich and powerful story to tell. We need the opportunity to tell it in our own voice and in our own way.”
Through Higher Ground International’s continued work on both sides of the Atlantic, and the growth of Broken Pieces International as a for-profit business, Henrietta White-Holder and her dedicated team of staff and volunteers will continue to help struggling communities in both Providence and Liberia repair the damages of war, empower themselves, and achieve better lives for themselves and future generations.
“I find that my life has come full circle,” Henrietta says. “I immigrated from Liberia to Rhode Island. I lived in places like the West End and South Side and graduated from high school here. Now I’ve returned to these places to give back and help make a difference.”