IOM The Gambia
Alieu Sisawo – (Gambian Returnee)
“I am proud of myself and I can say I am now a rich, young man.”
I left The Gambia in 2012. I decided to leave for Europe to provide for myself and my family, but the journey was the most difficult experience of my life. I am grateful to be alive today. After spending more than four years in Libya with unsuccessful attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea, I returned home in 2017.
My return brought joy to my family. My mother and a few family members were glad, but others described me as a coward. I didn’t care what they said. What mattered to me was my wellbeing and my mother’s joy. When I returned to my hometown, I immediately opened a grocery shop and enrolled in a nursing programme at The Gambia College. Being the only shop in the area, it attracted many customers. I used the profit to provide for my family’s basic needs and my college education. I also used the proceeds to open two other shops. I am proud of myself and I can say I am now a rich, young man. I regret the amount of time – four and a half years – I wasted in Tripoli. I could have used it for something worthwhile.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, business has not been the same. However, I cannot allow COVID-19 to ruin my trade. I diversified my business to include animal husbandry and started to sell my products at a reduced price. These activities have diversified my sources of income and attracted new customers amid the lockdown. As a nursing student, I regularly talk to family and friends about the dangers of COVID-19 and explain to them the proper hygiene protocols to protect ourselves from the virus.
Alieu’s shop and his nursing studies have been supported by the European Union's Emergency Trust Fund for Africa through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.