Sicily

  1. Gambian migrant takes his Sicilian mother back home

    Ismail Einashe

    Letter from Africa

    Muhammed Sanneh (R) and his foster mother Giusella Ferraro (L)
    Image caption: The pair have been given Gambian outfits as welcome gifts

    A young orphaned migrant fostered by a family in Italy has taken his foster mother to meet his grandmother in The Gambia.

    Last year I wrote a BBC Letter from Africa about how Muhammed Sanneh had taken the perilous journey to the Italian island of Sicily aged 16.

    His life took an unexpected turn after he had arrived in 2015, when he was fostered by the close-knit Ferraro family who live in the town of Favara in the south of the island.

    Last month, the young man, who prefers to go by his childhood nickname of Lexy, made the reverse journey with his foster mother Giusella Ferraro - this time by aeroplane.

    Like thousands of young Gambians, Lexy had made the arduous trip to Italy so that he could find a way to financially support his two younger siblings and grandmother.

    They now live in Serekunda, the largest urban centre in The Gambia - and he and his foster mother have been spending time with them.

    He tells me he is extremely happy to be back home - talking, eating and rekindling his bond with his family that he has not seen in years.

    Muhammed Sanneh (R) and his foster mother Giusella Ferraro (L) standing by an ancient tree in The Gambia
    Image caption: Lexy has been showing Giusella famous sites in The Gambia

    The experience has not been all smiles, he says, as it has felt “extremely emotional” to be back, but the warm welcome has made it worth it.

    The best bit has been introducing Giusella to his family. He says they have fallen in love with her and that she is extremely happy to be there.

    Unfortunately his foster father, Antonio, and foster sisters, Alexia and Alysea, could not join them on this trip, but he says they will come in the future.

    I have eagerly been following Lexy’s return journey on Facebook and Instagram via the countless photos he has being posting with relatives dressed up in vibrant and beautiful traditional Gambian clothes and eating plates brimming with delicious fish curries, jollof rice and peanut stews.

    His cousin even had traditional Gambian clothes made for him and his foster mother as a welcome gift, he says.

    Giusella has easily adopted to the Gambian way of living and loves the food and the warmth of the people, he says.

    Lexy’s story, despite the traumatic experiences he’s gone through, has a happy ending unlike many young African migrants who try to get to Europe.

    In Sicily he has mastered the Italian language, even speaks the local Favara dialect - which fills his foster mother with pride - and he works at a pharmacy in the town, a job he loves and that has enabled him to financially support his family in Gambia.

    Still on holiday in The Gambia, he says he cannot stop smiling.

    Quote Message: Everyone is treating me and my mum like a prince and a queen, it’s just amazing."
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