The intersect story of Omar and Lamin (surnames withheld) began six years ago aboard a pickup truck in the Desert of Libya and is making news in the daily newspaper “Citta Della Spezia” of the Italian city of La Spezia. Along a dangerous path, these two Gambians became friends. Today, they are set to earn an extra piece of their rough road: Omar is enrolled at the University of Pisa to graduate in Peace Science. Meanwhile, Lamin assists the chef of the Centre for Social Innovation (Ciofs) before attending the Casini hotel institute to become a cook.
Like so many Africans, the two Gambian boys escaped the horrors of the clandestine canoes of the Mediterranean sea. Fears of a hopeless future under the dictatorship of Yahya Jammeh drove the two boys out of The Gambia for the risky journey of the Lybian desert and the dangerous migrant boats. Although Omar and Lamin didn’t know each other before their perilous journey, they saved each other along the voyage and have now enrolled to be graduates in Science for Peace and Catering in La Spezia, the second-largest city in the Liguria region of Italy.
“The story of Omar and Lamin is the likes of mythological tales, the one that could drift from salvation to death, with the same ease. No one knows how long it could last to cross the Libyan desert, then the Mediterranean Sea. No one knows if one would make it safely. Yet the two boys took on the journey (in 2015) to escape the dictatorship, the rising tribalism, the lack of rights and looming hunger under the dictatorship,” said Don Luca Palei, who welcomed Omar and Lamin.
“At the start of their risky journey, they only had one bottle of water each and little or nothing of food to eat. The unlucky migrants who fell were not supported so as not to waste time,” said Don Luca Palei, who recollects every bit of the story narrated to him by the boys. “They separated in the desert, but fate wanted them to meet again aboard the same boat to cross the Mediterranean Sea. That meeting made them believe it was an omen of freedom. On April 13, 2015, they arrived in Sicily. Since then, they have not separated,” Don Luca Palei explained.
The Christian volunteers of Caritas, led by Don Luca Palei, welcomed and hosted Omar and Lamin in La Spezia. It was never easy to talk about their dangerous journey, and words are never enough to describe what it looked like. Yet Omar and Lamin managed to find words and told their story to the students of the Capellini Sauro Institute in La Spezia. Those words came into a book, “Through.” Their friendship, the strength of their testimony, have reached the “Don Lorenzo Milani” ISA 1 Comprehensive Institute. Many students have heard their odysseys on land and at sea.
Thanks to the collaboration between the school leaders Chiara Francesca Murgia and Maria Torre, thanks to the two schools’ generosity and staff, two scholarships have been awarded to Omar and Lamin.
After attending an evening course, Omar graduated in electrical engineering and has now enrolled at the University of Pisa to pursue a course in Sciences for Peace. Lamin chose to be an assistant chef at Ciofs and is now enrolled in the evening courses of the Hotel to graduate as a cook’s assistant.
Omar and Lamin are doing civil service in the city of La Spezia. Together, they breathe the air of an everyday life that they have been able to regain in La Spezia.