I was born in a village in Senegal. It’s a big village and I grew up there on a farm.
When I was 16 years old I told my parents that I wanted to go to the big city, Dakar. My parents asked me what I wanted to do there and I told them that I will look for a job. They allowed me to go but asked me to come back when the rain season starts.
When I got to Dakar I found a job. My boss was a woman and she liked me so much, she treated me like her son. She didn’t want me to go back when the rain season started. She said: “Please, my son, I don’t want you to go back to the village, I want you to help me!” I answered: “Aunty, I want to go back because my parents asked me to, I have to go and help them”.
The time I was ready to go she went to the supermarket and bought me many things. When I returned home both my parents were happy and surprised. I said to them that my boss told me to come back and my parents said I should go back to her because she is a good person.
I also want to share what I have learned from the Scalabrini Centre. I remember in April, it was the first graduation. I took a picture and shared it on my Facebook. The first person to comment on it was a Scalabrini Father because he knows me and when he first met me he could not understand me. He commented and called me and said: “I am so happy that I can talk to you today because when we met we could not talk.” I am so happy to say how Scalabrini has changed me and got me to where I am today. I had never joined a centre before, even in my country. Scalabrini was the first centre I joined. My friends keep on asking me: “what will you do at Scalabrini?” I keep answering: “I know what I am doing here and Scalabrini has changed me.” I can now say: “I am beside but not far from an English speaker even if I am not a native English speaker.”
What I want to share is: first why I come here to the Scalabrini Centre: especially to learn English. I was sent here by the Scalabrini Fathers. The main reason I was sent here is because I want to become a Catholic Priest. I met them one week after I came to South Africa. I started at Scalabrini one year ago. They said that my English is weak and I need to improve my English so they sent me here to Scalabrini. For now the only thing I have to do is to learn to write and speak in English because the people I work with may not know French.
Will you preach in Cape Town?
According to what is said in the Bible I can preach anywhere in the world. I will teach wherever there is my mission. I cannot choose where I go but I go where they need me. I would preach in South Africa if I could choose. Out of Africa I would choose to go to Haiti.
How long does it take to become a priest?
It depends. It can take 10 years or more than that. It is a commitment, you cannot wake up and say I will become a priest. You have to be prepared.
Have you always known you wanted to be a priest?
I started to consider being a priest when I was in grade 7 back in Congo DRC. I participated in a group with all young people put together who want to become a priest one day. We had meetings where we were taught how to behave like a priest.
My dream is to become a doctor. I want to do heart surgery. I know about medicine and I want to go to university now after English classes.
Is your family in Cape Town?
Yea, I have been here since 2006. My family is in Somalia.
Do you miss them?
Yes, the last time I spoke to them was five months ago because I don’t have a phone number to call them at.
Do you have a lot of friends here in Cape Town?
What do you do for fun?
I play soccer. I played since I was young. I love to play soccer. I play on the weekends with my friends.
I came here because I want to study to be a doctor. They told me I have to learn English first and how to write it. That is why I am here at Scalabrini. After two years of learning English I will try to be a doctor. I want to be a doctor for women, if women have a problem. I could help them with their stomachs and if they have to give birth.
Is this traditional clothing from Mali?
Do you always wear clothes from Mali?
Yes, I always wear dresses. We have to wear something on our head for religious reasons, you need to keep something on your head when you are out, but not when you are home. When you are with your husband you can take it off.
It is different from Somalia. In Mali you can wear your dress and headscarf but in Somalia you must cover your face. In Mali you don’t have to do that. It is a different culture.
Do you feel it is okay to be Muslim here in South Africa?
Yes it feels okay because I live with my sister. She is my husband’s friends’ wife but I take her like my own sister because we are from the same country, speak the same language, prepare food together, we do everything the same. We are five in the house, she has a child.
During Ramadan you cannot eat during the day but when it is dark at 8 o’clock you can eat. Then at 6 am you must stop eating. It is for 30 days. During Ramadan people want to marry because it is a nice month. It changes every year with the moon.
When I went to high school I went to a competition of the whole country Malawi. All the schools of the countries came together. I was doing RnB and hip-hop, I was singing.
When they called me I didn’t go, I was shaking and tried to hide. A friend of mine saw me and said, “you always tell me I have to go fighting, now it’s your turn.”
He said “he’s here” and everyone was looking at me and pushed me towards the stage. When I got there I tried my best. I grabbed the microphone, everybody went quiet. Everybody got excited, they called me 2pak. People call me 2pak and I can’t stop them, because the voice is there. Then I grabbed the mic and I sang, first I didn’t feel comfortable, but when people started to make some noise I started to feel comfortable.
Before they announced the names of the winners a girl came to shake our hands, when she came to me she was just standing there and said “you must come again, so that we can get your details, because we will pay your school fees.” I asked her why and she answered “the way you sing, we are very happy with you.”
My father is a sheik, a Muslim. When I got home my nephew told my family already. My father didn’t like it, he was afraid I would start drinking or taking drugs. He had this picture. I said “I would just go out there and sing.”
“I live in Bellville, but people there call me ‘kwerekwere.’ They call anyone that who does not speak the same language as them. If I speak Xhosa and you don’t I call you Kwerekwere. They don’t understand that I am a foreigner. But that is why I live in Bellville because I am safe there. I live somewhere else, as a foreigner I might get killed or robbed.”
“What is your hope? What is your dream job?”
“In French we say, ‘Any job is a job’ because money does not have a color, it does not have a value. In my country I was a teacher, teaching French. I was also doing performing arts, theatre, writing, poetry. I was also involved in many associations: Red Cross, Scouts. So that is left behind me. My hope is now to do what I was doing before. Not only teach but to be involved because I am passionate to do a voluntary job. My big dream is to have my NGO for education. Because you know in Africa people must be educated. When you got education you got knowledge and you can be safe. Anyone can understand to not the same level but to a degree. When it is different, one is educated and another is not educated it is not easy to understand each other. It makes things difficult and this is one reason there is Xenophobia.”
We are happy to introduce our new small project, Humans of Scalabrini. From next week on we will publish the stories and photos of individuals to show the variety of people within our Centre.
If you are interested in participating, please ask for Katie or Nele at reception.
Stay tuned on our blog and facebook to get to know the humans of Scalabrini!
We would like to welcome our new staff member, Jean Luc Mukola. He was born and raised in DRC before coming to Cape Town.
He first came to Scalabrini Centre through the Employment Access Programme (EAP). After taking an internship with EAP he now started to work at our guesthouse.
Jean Luc also works as sworn translator for French – English.
Jean Luc likes to interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures. He enjoys various kinds of music and travelling.
The Scalabrini Centre was proud to see four of our women clients who are dedicated to working towards social cohesion in their communities, attend the launch of the CTRC and EU Enchanged Civic Understanding and Engagement project. The project aims to establish a platform for constructive engagement between refugees and South Africans.