They say that childhood marks you for life though in my case, it was not a time that provided many occasions to flourish. I was born in Africa; in a town called Fiaos; in Ghana; on a Tuesday in 1988. When I was a small child, I did not have much to play with and consequently, I had to make my own toys. When I was thirsty, I had to go to the river to get water. There was nothing in my house so if I wanted to eat fish, I had to go fishing in the river. I was the son of the village shaman and I often went into the jungle in search of plants to cure the illnesses of people in the local area.
My story begins one day whilst after herding animals, I was playing football with my friends. All of a sudden, I saw a plane flying overhead. "I kept thinking, "How can a plane stay up there? If I grab something and throw it in the air, it falls to the ground; how come this plane does not fall? ". I compared it with the toys that I had built for myself which I dragged along the ground in order to make them move. Once, I was even told that only white-skinned people flew in those planes.
From that day onwards, I realised that the world would not be confined by the borders of my birthplace. Thus, I began to ruminate on exploring beyond my village. I conceived of the “white man” as a god because we saw Europe as a paradise. I thought that the “white man” was synonymous with intelligence, a doctor, an engineer... in a word, “superior”. This notion was not necessarily reinforced in my mind but it provided the motivation for my desire to leave home, that is, to acquaint myself with the white race.
A couple of years passed when I got a job in a nearby village. After that experience, I moved to the second city of the country and finally, I made it to the port of the capital, Accra. There, for the first time in my life, I had the luck to watch some T.V. Barça was playing on the T.V. that day. As I actually worked at the port, I would often see ferries, cars and other machines in general. From that moment forth, my interest in gaining knowledge about the white race grew greater and greater. I just had to know how they could create and develop such amazing things.
Back then, I was merely an illiterate 12-year-old kid dreaming of a continent beyond my reach. I used to weld sheet metal and with very steady hands and a small body, I was able to get inside the complex machines and tackle welds that were not simple. One day, I heard about Libya. I was told that if I moved there to work, I would receive a good salary. This was something that seemed impossible because to date in Accra, my labour had only earned me a bowl of rice to eat per day. So of course, I agreed to go.
"The journey that I undertook still resembles a cinematic film to me; like something surreal that could never actually happen." I often ask myself: “How did I survive?” Take the following example of my passage across the Sahara Desert…. 56 people were piled into three Land Rovers, that is, eighteen in each car crossing the desert amidst the dunes. Suddenly, we were all ordered out of the vehicles because the drivers “needed to go for more petrol and would not be away for long”. They did not return and we were left abandoned in the middle of the desert. Nevertheless, one man assured us that he knew the right way out and therefore, we elected to follow him. He took the opportunity to make us pay cash for his directions otherwise he would not agree to lead us away. Days went by and within the group, we faced more and more setbacks; we had neither food nor water. One of the things I learnt from that trek is that “the human body is truly wise; it adapts to any situation”. After 21 days, we made it to the other side of the Sahara. Though only six of us, out of the original 56 people, had survived.
“During that journey, I wanted to give up on several occasions. I was left without any hope; those were harsh spells.”
Throughout that time, I would say that the worst moment arrived after eighteen days of tramping across the desert. We had run out of food and water; we truly had nothing. Bodies were expiring in front of me… I had no hope of staying alive. It should be noted here that three days beforehand, our “leader” had also abandoned the group and he had taken all our money and valuables. Fortuitously, I saw a dead body occupying a large rock. With fear, I approached him and looked into his pockets. He was carrying a full canteen of water.
“This saved my life. I wondered why it was me who discovered this canteen but I am grateful that God chose it to be this way.”
Once in Libya, things turned out to be worse than expected. In that period, it was a country under the control of Gadaffi. Black immigrants were completely mistreated; “A dog was more highly valued than a black immigrant.”
I had been in Libya for four years when I saved enough money to escape the country. The mafia prevailed upon me to pay them 1.600$ to cross the Mediterranean and eventually, arrive in Spain. “We will carry you; it will just take 45 minutes.” they assured me. Of course, I was not able to verify such information. I was in trouble again. The might of the mafia goes way back. It is not just them but also the many other people involved with them (e.g. policemen by day work for the mafia at night).
We were taken back to the desert and it was really tough. We crossed Tunis, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania….. one of the hardships we encountered, was being arrested at least ten times by the police in Algeria. This was because of a political agreement between France and Algeria during the presidency of Sarkozy; for each arrested immigrant, the police were rewarded accordingly.
“We were thoroughly mistreated: during the day, the police did their job; at night, they became evil.”
The mafia did in fact, get us some materials and equipment so that we could build our own boats. Once they were completed, I was brave enough to get into one of them as I could not swim. It took us two attempts to reach far into the ocean. With the first bid, the boat collapsed in the waves and ten people died. One of them was my best friend, Muusa.
After that failed attempt, we retreated back to the desert. I remember losing my shoes and thus, spent a month walking around in bare feet. 33 days later, the mafia provided us with more equipment and and we built two new boats. There were sixty of us in each boat but on this occasion, the other boat sank. However, ours took us to Fuerteventura (the promised land). A friend of mine exclaimed: “Wake up, brother! We are getting off!” I was exhausted. We crashed into some rocks and the boat overturned right in front of the shore. I thought I was going to die.
Thankfully, I stepped onto dry land and felt truly relieved. The waves had dragged me towards the sand. As a result of sitting in the boat for almost 24 hours, I could not even stretch my legs. Nor could I walk as my feet were covered in scars. My shipmates were marching towards an illuminated road and I just focussed on following them. I recall that it was dark at night and it was raining.
The police appeared along with “La Creu Roja” (The Red Cross) and the media. They were looking after my companions and provided them with blankets. Then, they shouted: “Look, there’s another one”. The Red Cross gathered me up and wrapped me in blankets too. Unlike the others, I was taken to an ambulance as I was trembling. Next, we had to sign several documents for which we were escorted to the Red Cross office. Then, I was taken to the hospital where the doctors performed the so-called “Wrist Test” to ascertain my age. I just knew that I was born on a Tuesday; that is all that matters when a child is born in Ghana.
From there, I was put into jail for about a month and every two or three days, I was led to a dark, little room where I would be interrogated. They wanted me to make a confession but I had nothing to say. After this period of incarceration, I was lucky to learn that the State of Spain had given me the chance to legally reside in their country. With that, I was flown in a small plane to Malaga where I was asked which city I would like to move to. I did not know Spain nor its most important cities. However, I did remember that back in Accra, I had watched a game on T.V. in which Barça had taken part. So I said “Barça”. They understood what I meant; Barcelona was to be my final destination.
I was provided with a tuna sandwich, a bottle of water, a banana and a one-way ticket. It was Winter 2005 when I arrived in Barcelona for first time. When I got there, I was so happy that I did not immediately ask for the address of the Red Cross office in that city. I walked around staring intently at every single thing. Cars, houses... it was all new and wonderful. I remember I said Hello to everyone in the street as it is usual to do so in Africa. People looked at me in a weird way... afterwards, it got dark and I did not have time to get to the Red Cross. As a consequence, I had to sleep in the street.
I woke up the next day and I was sitting on a bench around “la Meridiana”. I noticed a woman who was slowly wandering about so I stood up and gently approached her. I showed her all the documents I was carrying with me, explained to her who I was and ask her where I could find the Red Cross office. She barely spoke English and could not understand me. Though she did seem to be interested in my commentary. She took my hand and called her husband who did speak English. I was easily able to talk with him. Next, the woman invited me for some breakfast and gave me her phone number. She asked me to call her if I had to or was going to sleep in the street again.
I headed to Plaça Espanya following the directions that Montserrat Roura [the woman] had given me. Once there, I became very stressed as I did not know how to read the subway map. Suddenly, I heard a feminine voice behind me. I was really scared because in Libya, boys were not permitted to talk to girls. Her name was Eva and she gave me a lot of help. She showed me where the Red Cross office was and advised me to go there by myself (otherwise, they might not accept me). She gave me 40€ and a backpack and then she left.
I was sent to a sports’ complex where I stayed for three nights. However, on the fourth night, I was kicked out and returned to the street. I slept on benches for about a month and it was really fatiguing. That is when I decided to call Montserrat (who had given me her phone number some time ago) and explain my predicament to her. After a long chat, she decided that she and her husband would talk to the Red Cross. They were so generous and as my new guardians, they took me in (I was not yet an adult).
It was the beginning of a new life for me.
The first evening after dinner, my new mum came in to say Good Night and kiss me on the forehead. Then, she turned off the light and left the room. My first night was really difficult; I could not sleep; I kept crying. I could not fathom how I had been through such a horrifying journey to finally feel safe in my new home. It was the first time someone had kissed me. After a long, long time, I could feel truly loved by someone. In Africa, physical contact has a different purpose: people shake and/or take each others’ hands as a way of expressing gratitude.
After much reflection, I drew the following conclusion: the question should not be “Why had this happened to me?” but “What for? What purpose could this experience serve?”. The answer was thus: “Now, I must communicate and inform others of my plight in order to create concern for the place I come from. There must be a way to improve our situation in Ghana and most importantly, I must prevent others from suffering as I had. The chances of lost lives are too great.”
I started to study Catalan Spanish so that I could pass my Bachelor exams. Then, I spent two years at UB university to acquire a degree in Chemistry and now, I am about to complete my degree in Public Relations and Marketing. I also balance my studies with a job as a motorcycle mechanic. Moreover, I have founded the NGO nascoict.org with the purpose of providing access to information and education whilst reducing the digital gap. With this organisation, I try to protect young children from undertaking journeys like the one I made. Had I known the distances and risks and with more information about where Europe was, I would never have left Ghana in the way that I did. Education is the tool for change.
Nasco was founded in the year 2012. I had to buy the forty-five units/computers with my own money when the initial crowd-funding project failed. I felt strongly that as a particular mechanism, this venture was necessary and very, very important. It would be a way of opening a big door to the world and creating a bridge for the underprivileged students of Africa, starting with those in Ghana.
This first 45 desktop computers were sent to Saint Augustine Junior High School in the northern region of Ghana. We started with 850 students and two ICT teachers.
I also thought of sharing this charitable enterprise with schools in Barcelona for those children who have everything they need but do not take advantage of or simply do not appreciate their right and/or access to an education.
After an initial conference, Elena who was a very good friend of Jordi Ros and a volunteer of Labdoo, happened to make a connection with the school. A couple of days later, I received a call from Elena asking for a meeting and in the end, Jordi was able to make time to join us too.
Jordi offered me the opportunity to collaborate with the Labdoo Organization and I realised that with the brilliant concept of Labdoo, I would not have to pay for the computers, myself. So I created the Labdoo Hub Amics de Gracia. We have sent hundreds of laptops to Ghana and we currently have 5,400 students in three schools and a library.
Thanks to the support of all the Labdoo team for making this possible.
Date it was last updated: 02/01/18