HOPING FOR A BETTER LIFE: A refugee tells his story

An interview with Lambini Sakab Kombat from Ghana who is living as a refugee in Spain

Lambini Sakab Kombat is an educated and aspiring young man originating from Chereponi in Northern Ghana. He is in his early thirties and working as a youth employment coordinator, when in 2009, due to a change of government, he loses his job. Looking for new job opportunities and not finding them in Ghana, Sakab decides to leave his homeland and family to find a pretended easier life in Spain. Not long after his arrival the young man realizes that life as a refugee in Europe is anything but easy. In this interview with Sabab Lou, Sakab talks about his experiences and discusses a new project Sabab Lou is planning to implement in his home town Chereponi. This micro loan project aims to enable young women and men to build up small business and thus create chances on prosperity. Sakab’s message is clear. Wherever we go, we will have to give the best of us in order to succeed.

Lambini Sakab Kombat in Europe

SL: Which were your expectations concerning life in Europe?
SK: My expectations were quite unrealistic. I was hoping that I would get a good job immediately and that I would be able to help my family back home and to make some savings. I had been working as an engineer and a social worker back in Ghana. So my expectations were high. But once I arrived in Spain it was really very different.

SL: How was the reality you encountered in Spain?
SK: For the first three years it was not easy for me. In 2009 the job market was weak and I was not having the language background. In Spain it is really very difficult to work when you don’t have the language. So I needed to look for other opportunities. Jobs that I would be able to do without speaking Spanish. So I become a baker. I met a family who is into the production of ecological bread. They do ecological farming and prepare ecological bread. I stayed with them for almost two years. I was working from morning to evening for food and accommodation but without any salary.
It was a learning process. I learned how to bake. At the time there was no other opportunity for me. And though it was not a good option, I had to take it. I stayed with the family for almost two years but it didn’t end well. They had made a lot of promises. Saying they were going to give me a working contract and a salary. Saying they would help me receive a permanent residency in Spain and help to bring my family to Europe. We had an agreement. But in the end they were not willing to fulfill those promises. But I reported the case and went to court. We have been in court for almost four years and are waiting for the final decision, now.

SL: What other opportunities did you find?
SK: By then I was having a little bit of experience in the fabrication of bread. So I decided to look for other opportunities in this field. I found a job with a bread factory in Barcelona and worked with them for almost a year. But the payment was really very bad. So I decided to quit that place again. After that I found the place where I am working now. A project called Triticum by Moritz in Barcelona. We are into the production of ecological bread and other ecological products.

SL: Do you enjoy this work?
SK: Well for now. It is not my field of study. But considering the circumstances surrounding my life in Europe, I have no option than to go by that. I like preparing bread. I like it. I have now become used to it and it has become part of me. So I like it.

SL: Did you meet other Africans in Spain who face similar problems?
SK: Yes. Thousands of Africans are hanging here without jobs. And if they could find an opportunity in Africa, I think they would go back home. Their hope is that things are going to change for the better. But when is the question? People are moving up and down the streets, looking into dustbins to see what they can find to go and sell that. I know a man here, an African, who holds a PhD but who has no job.

SL: A large number of young women and men in Africa are dreaming of an easier life in Europe …
SK: So many. That is why every time I get the opportunity I tell them: My brothers and sisters it is not easy in Europe. If you have something small to do in Africa go and establish that. In this world nowhere is cool. Because where ever you go, it depends on you as an individual. Are you ready to find a way out? Are you ready to work for yourself? Life in Europe is not easy. You will have to take care of yourself and deal with your family’s expectations. And these are always very high. Any call you will receive from Ghana or Africa is all about money. They expect that the money you are making in Europe is big enough and that you can help them. And if you are not able to do anything they will think: My brother is not willing to help us. But in reality this is not the truth. The money is not there. If we had the money we would help. We have to do a lot of sensitization. We need to educate people to change their feelings about Europe.

SL: Where do you see yourself in future? What are your hopes?
SK: Really I would prefer to live in Ghana with my family. I have been trying to bring my family to Spain but life has not been easy for me here. If I was able to establish something meaningful in Ghana, I would go back the next day. I am ready to make an impact and use the experiences I have gained in Europe to help myself, my people and my family. I want to help transform my country for the better. My spirit is not in Europe. My spirit is in Africa. I have gone a long way but staying in Europe is not my dream.

SL: Sabab Lou is planing to implement a micro loan project in your home town Chereponi. The project aims to enable young women and men to build up their own small business and encourages them to stay. How do you perceive the project?
SK: That project has a long way to go. I would like for us, people in Africa, to change our attitude, our way of thinking. Europe is not like Africa where we not even respect time. In Europe, when you are expected to work eight hours, you are working eight hours, not seven. So we have to change that mindset. People who are making it, they are hard working people. And if everybody is ready to work hard – you are able to make it and to live a happy life in Africa.

SL: Thank you Sakab for the interview.

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