Photo: R. Roviglioni
Abdel came to Italy after the shop he was running in Sharm El Sheik was destroyed by a bomb; he decided to move to Italy where he had studied previously on an exchange program. But once in Rome, he couldn’t find work for over 8 months.
“It didn’t feel right because I have always been working since I was a child. Although I have a degree, and I have studied for 16 years, I couldn’t find a job in my field. So I started to work as driver and a doorman for a hotel in the center of Rome.
“However, I think it is very important to never give up hope and to try to do our best to build a future. Jobs will not come knocking at your door for you.”
Soon he was able to market his skills and experiences in a new way: “I had the opportunity to go to Lampedusa, an island off of southern Italy, as a cultural mediator for the state police. I have heard so many stories from the people I hosted in Lampedusa, and experienced first-hand the way they live in the reception centers where I was working.
“There are a lot of differences between an interpreter and a cultural mediator: the first one only translates the language, but the mediator actually has to mediate and facilitate migrant’s transition to the new culture. People might do or say something that is perceived as an insult by others. For instance, an Italian policeman tried to imitate the Muezzin’s call to prayer; he did not do it to offend Muslims, but for some it was seen as an insult. The policeman apologized. Also, often I had to reassure some migrants about the food they were given, since they were scared they might eat pork.
“I think about life as a journey, and I need it to end where it began. I don’t know when, but I will go back home one day. Not because I failed here, but just because I will need to return to where I was born.”