Thursday, 4 August 2016

“Let’s get together, together we are one family!”

              "I am coming”, “dopu” (after), “maybe” and “no problema” are the most used words during this 3 weeks. Somehow, they summarize the experience and reality of the guests who live in our center.

                After arriving to Sicily migrants are sent from the reception center to one of the many migrant centers in Italy. According to the Dublin convention, they have to ask for asylum in the country where they arrive. After filling in the C3 form they start the long process of… doing nothing. It is not possible to predict how long their process is going to take. It can take 3 months or more than 2 years. No one knows. During this time, they attend Italian classes for an hour a day and they have very big days full of… nothing (or full of pain if they choose to think about their way and unpredictable future). Because of the Italian health and security laws they are provided lunch every day from a catering company. The food is really good but it is exactly the same every week, and Italian food and African food are not similar at all. Due to this long waiting process, it is difficult for the guests to find meaning to the lives there are having now. Our role here, as volunteers, is to try to fulfill their days with activities as well as to try to welcome them in Europe and stablishing meaningful relationships.

                In our first day here, an operator said “Refugees are not evil nor saints, they are human beings”. I am glad I got to testify this in all the ways. There were arguments and beautiful moments of regret and forgiveness. We played together, we shared games, songs, meals and even birthdays. We worked together and built a really nice common space outside, with a table, chairs, a garden and decoration. Besides our countries flags and drawings there is also a big sign where they wrote “Let’s get together, together we are one family!”. Without even realizing, I started to love them. Now they are not human beings anymore, they became my friends. Friends who really pay attention to each other. Who give you food, share their drinks and borrow you shoes. Friends who share the terribly sad stories of their lives and still trust God and are willing to spread their believes. Between friends the language barrier loses power. We are able to play and talk using words from many different languages. I am no longer worried about entering their rooms in the morning to wake them up or call them outside, even though “I am coming” or “dopu” will probably be the answers and the process has to be repeated at least 3 times. Friends who sing together, make “family” bracelets and happy birthday cards. Friends who can sit in silence for a while or talk for hours. Friends are also people to whom saying goodbye is difficult, even when we know there’s a good future for them who is just about to start. These friends, these people are the ones with whom we have been sharing our last 3 weeks.

                During this time, almost every day we were reading the terrible news of terror acts happening worldwide. I wish the stories and strength of the beautiful people I met here could be spread by the media in the same way. Our problem is not them. The problem are the things they are running from, the things that made them take the risk to cross the sea. I hope one day all Europe could answer them in the same we answer our friends help requests.

Rita Fonseca

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