This is the story of Umba, originally from Congo, 31 years old and mother of an 8-year-old girl, participating in the LIME pilot project in Rome.
She arrived in Italy 16 years ago, after some experiences in Poland, Germany and France, she felt she had put down roots in the country where she arrived with her parents as a shy and reserved child without knowing the culture and language.
The ALDA team had a nice conversation with her during which we found out more about her experience of integration and participation in the LIME project.
You have been in Italy for some time, how did you find yourself at the beginning and how do you feel now?
Umba’s arrival in Italy had no hiccups, however the first months at the Middle School were difficult: “I didn’t know the language, I was shy and didn’t allow others to enter my world”. At the beginning, not being able to communicate with others made Umba feel lost but, after high school, “I opened up to others and to the Italian culture”, she told us, so much so that now “it is difficult for me to think about integrating in a new country because here I no longer feel a foreigner and I have built my life”.
What are you doing now? How did you find the LIME project and what is you experience in it?
Looking for a job on Google, Umba found the LIME project training add on the website of CIES, our partner. Considering some of her previous work experience, she found an internship as a cashier at Eataly and within the LIME programme she is following a self-entrepreneurship course: “it is very interesting and helps me to acquire the skills to eventually open my own business”.
Umba’s dream is to open a bar/restaurant of African cuisine in Rome, where there are not many others. She would do it for the many Africans who lack home flavors but also for the many Italians who are curious to discover her cuisine. “I would like to give people who cannot afford to travel the chance to learn about African culture. Being open to others and curious about their history and traditions is what allows us to integrate“.
It has not always been easy for Umba, divided between an internship, training courses and taking care of her little girl. Covid then made it worse, in spite of this: “it’s a good thing we had the chance to continue the course online and not isolate ourselves”.
What suggestion would you give to other Africans coming to Europe and what suggestion would you give to us in the LIME project to improve ourselves since you were one of the first participants to be selected?
For us, Umba says to stay exactly like this: “the CIES staff is now a family for me, they have done everything to help me, they have known me as a person, with my weaknesses and my strengths, and I hope they can lighten the path of others as they did with me”. Thanks to LIME Umba has made friends with other participants and she told us that she has learned some notions that she can apply in her daily life that allow her to improve her work but also her personal life.
To those who arrive in a new country, Umba suggests to open up as much as possible to others: “Before you get help, help yourself, don’t shut in on yourself, try to communicate in all languages with those around you“. Umba confesses that she feels richer today because she has something of her own, but also something of Italy in her and this is what she would like everyone to try by opening her restaurant.
We wish with all our heart to Umba to realize her project and we thanks her to have taught us something more about what it means to integrate!