When Famakan had to leave his country, things were not easy. But he is the kind of guy who never loses heart. 

Famakan arrived in Italy in 2016, after a dangerous journey. Back in Mali, Famakan was attending the High School of Modern Languages and his intention was to continue studying at university. Due to the conflict situation in his country, he had to put his dreams on hold and leave. But once in Italy, he already had clear projects in mind: to learn Italian and help the local community.


First, learn Italian!

Famakan has an excellent level of French, but he knows that if you want to make a life in Turin, you must speak Italian. So, he started to learn by himself and then by attending a course at the Multiethnic Association of Intercultural Mediators (A.M.M.I.).

But for him, this was not enough. In addition to the continuous interactions with the teachers, Famakan was asking for more Italian books, of different levels, to study autonomously. He was the only one asking for more homework to do; he had all the work at home checked and approved by his teachers. Then, to facilitate the learning process and improve his writing, he started to WhatsApp everyone in Italian.


Connect with locals

To the people who were talking to him in French (to make it comfortable), Famakan was always replying in Italian.

“If I don’t try, I don’t know when I make mistakes and I’ll never learn. You know, I want to speak like you. Time passes and I really want to find a job and start my life in Italy”. He told Ana, the cultural mediator of the center.

After 3 months, Famakan was able to have a basic conversation in Italian with anyone. He was proud of his hard work and motivated, but not yet satisfied. His perseverance and motivation pushed him to want more and more, to set his goals higher and higher.


Become a Local

He found an internship as a handyman in a hotel in Turin. As he puts it:

“I don’t care if I clean the garden or wash the floor. I meet the people and I have the opportunity to improve my Italian every day”.

For him, that was a chance of a lifetime. Every day he learned new words, sayings, and even the Italian typical gestures. He was starting to feel and live like a local.

In order to have a valid qualification, Famakan also started to learn how to be a good mechanic. Every day he has to travel for about 2 hours and take 2 trains to get to Grugliasco to reach the Institute that provides the course.

“I wake up at 4.30 am every morning, I have breakfast and I leave home. I come back at 18.30pm and at 19 pm I go to school for the Italian course”.

Empower the Local community

Instead of complaining about his full schedule and efforts, he just wishes he could have more time to do more. Famakan is always available when it comes to doing good and he already volunteered for the local community, working on the redevelopment of the Parri urban area in Turin.

So, when Ana asked him to teach Bambara (his dialect of Mali) as a Buddy in SPEAK, he immediately said yes. Indeed, the operators of the Centre that welcomes refugees are very interested in learning more about his language and culture. Not the beginning of Ramadan nor the idea of giving language sessions on a Saturday morning, on a voluntary basis, made him hesitate for a second.


Famakan teaching Bambara
Famakan teaching Bambara, the African Dialect, as a Buddy at SPEAK


The first session as a Buddy was a great success. Despite his shyness, Famakan looked very confident and proactive in front of the participants, using the materials that he prepared with absolute autonomy.

You can also speak in French if you happen not to know a few words in Italian” Ana told him.

“Ok, but I would prefer not to confuse the guys. Not everyone may understand French. Then, we are in Italy and I am the teacher. I have to speak in Italian”.

He prepared the session directly on his mobile phone, not having a computer at home. And it went very well!

“I hope that this year I will be called soon by the Police to present my request for international protection to the Territorial Commission. Too much time has passed and I am waiting so anxiously for this moment”

He wrote everything in Bambara in his personal diary.


About Famakan

Famakan will get his middle school diploma this June and he looks forward to enrolling in high school in the fall. He is passionate about football, and likes mathematics and reading books in Italian. Famakan is practicing the language using the computer whenever there’s one available. He cooks very well African recipes, but also purée and pasta.

Part of this article has been translated from the original text in Italian, wrote by Ana Ciubal.
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Author: Michela Paolicelli

I am Full Stack Marketer at SPEAK. My daily mission is to seek the beauty in the world, and also to find a way to spend most of my time in a lost esplanade!

6 Replies to “How a refugee is helping change his new community in Italy

    1. Amazing project, idea, amazing how people you least expect, like Famakan, have the availability of helping their new community. (Progetto incredibile, idea fantastica! È incredibile come le persone a cui meno ti aspetti siano disposte ad aiutare la loro nuova comunità. 🙂

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