The music of Jingle Bells will always remind Ibrahim of the first day he stepped on to Irish soil. It was December 2nd, 2012, and Ibrahim, known as Lefah, had just flown from Mali to join his partner, Caitríona, for the birth of their daughter, Nina.
The 30-year-old, who worked as a tour guide in his hometown of Ségou and had never left Africa before, found himself walking around Dundrum Town Centre with his heavily pregnant girlfriend, searching for warm winter layers.
“I was in awe of the escalators, the movement and the lights,” he says. “I asked, ‘Who is this red man I’m seeing everywhere?, and Caitríona told me the story of Santa Claus, a man who climbs down your chimney and flies away with reindeer.”
The couple met in early 2012 when Caitríona was travelling in West Africa. In March that year a coup broke out in Mali, and soon after she was evacuated to Burkina Faso.
“There was so much drama in those three months living together in Mali. We met in a coup. Nina was conceived in a coup,” she says, adding that she returned to Ireland soon after and began making arrangements for Lefah to follow.
After seven months of applications and appeals he was granted an Irish visa. He arrived three weeks before Nina was born.
Read the rest of Lefah, Caitríona and Nina’s story here.
Courtesy of THE IRISH TIMES