In our sequence of letters from African journalists, Ismail Einashe meets a Gambian migrant who was fostered by an Italian family as a teen.
Muhammed Sanneh was an orphan when he left The Gambia aged 16 to attempt to discover a solution to assist his two youthful siblings.
They had all been residing along with his grandmother within the northern city of Basse, the place life was a wrestle.
Five-and-a-half years later, the younger migrant – who prefers to go by his childhood nickname of Lexy – lives on the Italian island of Sicily, the place he’s fluent in Italian and has been fostered by a neighborhood family.
His Italian foster dad and mom say he’s the son that they had at all times hoped for however never had.
In reality, it was his two foster sisters who badgered their dad and mom to foster him after admiring his dance strikes at a reception camp the place he had ended up after being rescued by Italian lifeguards on the Mediterranean in August 2015 following a traumatic and arduous nine-month journey from The Gambia.
It was a camp for migrant minors in Agrigento, which was run by his parents-to-be, Antonio and Giusella Ferraro.
He was fostered by means of a course of in Italy generally known as “affidemento” whereby a toddler is positioned within the family or residence of a government-certified caregiver or foster mother or father.
Lexy’s story just isn’t distinctive, some Italians in recent times have used this course of to formally foster among the 1000’s of unaccompanied minors arriving from international locations reminiscent of Nigeria, Mali, The Gambia and Senegal.
Sharing a love of soccer and cooking
And in Lexy’s case, it has proved to be no half-way home.
The 22 yr previous has turn out to be an integral a part of the close-knit Ferraro family during the last 4 years.
I’d been in contact with him for some time by means of a mutual pal and had been intrigued to see his stream of optimistic social media posts about his new family – sharing photographs like that of him and his foster father beaming as they proudly wore Barcelona FC T-shirts to cheer on their favorite participant Lionel Messi.
So on a visit to Sicily I needed to see for myself this younger African migrant whose life was so completely different from the customarily tragic tales of others who make the harmful journey to Europe.
On a blistering summer time morning I arrived on the Ferraros’ summer time seashore home within the village of San Leone.
Over a number of days of consuming mountains of pasta, sunbathing and seeing the family calm down on vacation, I may see the love felt for Lexy and the way a lot his presence had modified them.
Giusella, who’s fiercely happy with how nicely he has built-in into Sicilian society, together with his mastery of the Italian Favara dialect, loves cooking him his favorite pasta dish – al forno with courgettes, eggs, carrots and parmesan.
But she says his Gambian roots have additionally altered her kitchen spice cabinet, which now has substances overseas to most Italian kitchens. She reveals me jars of cumin, chilis, coriander, peppers and even Jumbo, the seasoning powder widespread in West Africa.
Food is an enormous a part of family life and when Giusella is away at work Lexy takes over the kitchen. She has taught him the right way to make many Sicilian dishes and he even jokes that his sisters – Alexia, who’s his age, and 19-year-old Alysea – now desire his cooking to their mom’s.
In reality he says Alysea usually begs him to make domoda, so loopy is she for the well-known Gambian peanut stew.
Lexy says his new family respects his Islamic religion, they have fun the Muslim pageant of Eid with him.
Even throughout the fasting month of Ramadan, his mom will get up at round three within the morning to prepare dinner him sahari, the pre-dawn meal.
And out of respect, they not serve pork in the home – and Giusella additionally serves his meals on completely different plates and glasses as a result of he doesn’t drink alcohol.
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Before the Ferraros fostered Lexy in 2016 – 5 months into his keep within the migrant camp, they phoned his grandmother again in The Gambia to ask her permission.
She gave them her blessing – she was relieved he had discovered a family who beloved him.
He is now capable of ship again cash sometimes to assist his Gambian family – and hopes this may cease them from following in his footsteps.
Plans to go to The Gambia
He doesn’t need anybody to reside by means of the terrors of his nine-month journey: trekking by means of the desert of North Africa to Libya, which was mired in civil battle and the place he heard gunfire for the primary time and witnessed horrific beatings of migrants by traffickers.
But it’s the torturous sea crossing that also haunts him – to the extent that he finds it tough to explain.
A small dingy weighed down with terrified, vomiting folks for hours in the midst of an expanse of tough water.
“You could give me $1m and I would not do it again,” he informed me.
His foster family want to go to The Gambia with him and his father Antonio has plans to assist him construct a home there sooner or later.
Lexy labored with Antonio for a pair years on the migrant camp, however has now struck out on his personal.
He works at a pharmacy in Favara – a job he loves. He has no plans to move to northern Europe – the aspiration of many an African migrant.
Instead he says his future is along with his new family and associates in Sicily – in preserving the island’s centuries-old custom of being a crossroads of cultures.
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