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I needed people to help me get back on my feet

Das Bild zeigt zwei Männer, die sich mit einer Berührung der Ellbogen begrüßen. Beide tragen einen Mundschutz.
Mohammed S. (on the left) and his advisor David Badu from BBQ

Mohammed S. has a specific goal: he wants to return to Gambia from Germany as soon as the travel restrictions associated with the corona pandemic are lifted. That is the 43-year-old's country of origin and where his wife and four children are still living. Mohammed S. wanted to offer them a better life, so some years ago he left his home town of Sare Hamadi in the Upper River region in the far east of the country and set off for Europe. He now reflects on that step with regret. "It was a mistake."

Mohammed S. is currently living in an initial reception facility in Heidelberg. He arrived in Europe at the end of 2015 and first stayed in Italy for a few years. There he struggled by with odd jobs, mostly helping on farms with the harvest. His desire to return to Gambia grew stronger over time. "I miss my family. My sons and daughters keep asking me when I'm coming home."

A contact from the diakonie aid organisation at the initial reception centre put Mohammed S. in touch with David Badu from Bildung und Berufliche Qualifizierung gGmbH/Newplacement International (BBQ/NPI). Reintegration scout Rafael Osterloh also became involved in the case via the local return counselling service at the regional council in Karlsruhe. Together with Mohammed S. they developed plans for his future in Gambia. "He is determined to return," is Badu's impression. "And he's very clear about what he wants to do in Gambia," says Osterloh.

Mohammed S. ran a small shop before he left Gambia. He sold food, stationery and other everyday items. He would really like to reopen this shop. Badu and Osterloh, together with Mohammed S., are considering the possibility of developing several mainstays. His family already owns animals, so an expansion of their livelihood in agriculture would also be conceivable.

Already in touch with local contacts

Rafael Osterloh therefore put Mohammed S. in touch with Daouda Niang for a personal consultation. His is director of the Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute and a lecturer in tourism at the University of the Gambia. As part of the country's tourist network, Niang could be a good contact when it comes to selling agricultural products to hotels, for example. David Badu has also put Mohammed S. in touch with the Red Cross in Gambia. A Red Cross coach could assist him to apply for support after his return, for instance from the European Return and Reintegration Network (ERRIN). 

Ein Mann lehnt an einem Brückengeländer und schaut auf das Display seines Handys.
Mohammed S. uses a smartphone to keep in touch with his family in Gambia.

Mohammed S. is sad that the corona pandemic has delayed his return, but he understands. "It's for our own protection. I'd like to stay healthy myself and also wish this for everyone else. Above all, I don't want to transmit the virus to my family in Gambia." There are comparatively few cases in Gambia at the moment and restrictions are gradually being eased. The consequences for the economy could nevertheless be huge. Mohammed S. is likely to be returning in a difficult economic period. 

Online business start-up course from Social Impact StartHope@Home

He is using this time in Germany to prepare for the stage after his return. Among other things, he is taking an online course from Social Impact StartHope@Home. This course imparts knowledge such as accounting or marketing to people who want to become self-employed. Mohammed S. is thrilled. "I'm gathering lots of ideas about how to improve the running of my business in Gambia." Osterloh also wants to apply for a course for Mohammed S. run by the Sparkassenstiftung (a bank charity). Its interactive business simulations help future new businesses with cost calculations and other aspects of business management.

Mohammed S. is grateful for this support. "I can walk on my own. "But I needed people to help me get back on my feet"

This article is part of a series of articles. The next article in the series can be found here.

As of: 05/2020

"The travel restrictions are for our own protection. I'd like to stay healthy and wish this for everyone else. Above all, I don't want to transmit the virus to my family in Gambia."
Mohammed S.