My dreams in my pocket
Life is not a smooth sailing journey for everyone, but despite the turbulence, there are good things to learn from it. Coming back from my journey and trying to re-integrate into my community, I told myself nobody was going to help me achieve my ambitions. I wanted to become a professional cinematographer, a photographer and a scriptwriter. Becoming a Migrants as Messengers (MaM) Volunteer has changed my vision of life. It opened my eyes and helped me focus on the important things before making critical decisions. Today, the MaM project has enabled me to raise awareness amongst young people about the dangers of irregular migration. Something I have never thought of doing before.
After I returned home, working with my peers (other returnee migrants) helped me understand how to manage my stress and the other psychosocial effects I've experienced after my journey. Stigma is common in communities where returned migrants try to resettle, so working with my peers help me address those challenges.
One of the objectives of the MaM project was to raise awareness about the dangers of irregular migration and safe alternatives to irregular migration. To do this, we took part in activities such as the Caravan Road Show and the Global Migration Film Festival (GMFF). It also gave me the opportunity to work with photographers from the Magnum Photos Agency to create a photobook and to be rewarded for my short film on migration that came second in the Volunteers category of the GMFF, which makes me proud. I would’ve never expected to get recognition on an international stage which clearly shows that my future is in my hands.
The community engagement activities of MaM that we lead were very effective. Many young people told us that they had plans to leave Sierra Leone on risky journeys across the Sahara Desert and the Middle East, but they changed their minds after participating in some of our activities. One day, an old woman pulled me aside and told me she was thinking of sending her eldest son to Libya to try crossing. After seeing and listening to MaM videos and our testimonies, she changed her mind and said she would never let her son leave. When I asked her to share her testimony, she declined and said she wanted to keep it secret. In an instant, she started to cry, thanked me and left.
Awareness raising on the dangers of irregular migration has been fundamental to the success of MaM. Although it sometimes brings back bitter memories from passed journeys it also brings valuable information and opportunities to people. We must continue the process.
So, as I am about to drop my pen, I want to remind people reading this article that I migrated irregularly because I had dreams I never believed were accessible in my home country. Today, with my fellow volunteers, we have formed an association called, Migrants’ Center for Information and Capacity Development (MICICAD) that raises awareness on the dangers of irregular migration and provides capacity development to the youth.
Abdul Kahrim Sankoh, Volunteer, Migrants as Messengers Sierra Leone.