Liberian Civil War survivor coming to CU

Bill Rogers grew up during the Liberian Civil War where he was tortured and faced many hardships. He is coming to CU on April 4 to talk about overcoming these obstacles and becoming an Olympian. Photo Credit: Raphael Okutoro

Imagine what it must be like to live through a Civil War, one that rages on for nearly 15 years. It may be impossible to put yourself in that situation if you have never experienced it with your own eyes.

Bill Rogers lived it — and he overcame it.

On April 4, Rogers will be coming to Castleton to talk about his own experiences through struggle to success.

Rogers, who is close friends with Castleton’s Assistant Director of Admissions Raphael Okutoro, grew up in western coastal Liberia. He was born in 1985, growing up with five siblings and uneducated parents. Four years later, in 1989, the Liberian civil war began.

Okutoro, who worked with a group of faculty and students to put on this event, reflected on Rogers during that time.

“He was tortured, and you know he endured some really, really difficult stuff during the war. You know so, he’s got a powerful story. A very powerful story,” Okutoro said.

Rogers will be coming to Castleton to put on two different events where he will tell his story, one filled with inspiration, hardship, success and sports.

“He’s always had a tough life growing up,” said Okutoro. But he found joy in running. Rogers began to run track and field.

It all began when a group of professional runners came through his town. Rogers decided to follow them. When he realized his love for running, he persevered all the way to 2004 when he represented Liberia in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.

When he comes to Castleton, Rogers will reflect on his upbringing through the war in a poor family and tell the story of his journey to the Olympics, according to Okutoro.

“He’ll talk about what it means to go from the kind of life he had growing up and rising to the Olympics, and representing his country in the Olympics, and the challenges of that,” he said. “But it’s also the war element as well, the challenge of growing up in a war-torn country and being part of that, and the experience of being exposed to the civil war and the violence that happened in Liberia.”

In addition to his inspiring story, Rogers is also making a difference. In 2010, Rogers shifted from athletics to help bring relief to his home country of Liberia. After the devastating war, he knew he wanted to give back. He created the Bill Rogers Youth Foundation, a charity organization with the ultimate goal of building a sports complex for Liberian youth.

According to Okutoro, the complex will also have different benefits associated with it such as sustainable farming and a water well. Clean water is a big issue in the country.

“He’s come a long way,” said Okutoro.

The event will take place in Casella Theater on April 4. The first presentation will be during N-period from 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m., and the second will begin at 7 p.m.


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