For several years, we have been accompanying Lucien and his association Africa Unita, and we have been enthusiastic about what they are doing from the very beginning. We first came across the association when it was still a small refugee-run mutual support project. At that time they had established a common fund into which every refugee paid a small monthly amount and from which everyone could take something if necessary. Lawyers’ fees, medical bills or costs for passport photos can quickly exceed what is available on short notice to displaced persons.
This initial project has now become an association that not only welcomes help from outside, but also wants to help other refugees. Africa Unita is in contact with many refugees who are homeless or work in agriculture, and tries to improve their situation in a very pragmatic way by organizing what is needed at the moment. Above all, however, the association also works to improve immigration policies.
We are always happy to support the association in its work. Last year, for example, we advised Lucien and his colleagues on how to craft their own appeal for donations. So far this year, the main focus has been on purchasing tents and sleeping bags as well as sewing machines.
Tents for agricultural workers
On World Refugee Day, Africa Unita distributed twenty 3-person tents to refugees in Cassibile who work in Sicilian agriculture. Despite an initiative to improve the conditions of agricultural workers, the situation is still in dire need of improvement. In the fields, refugees are still working under rather adverse conditions. While they harvest tomatoes, oranges or olives, which then make their way onto our plates, the workers lack pretty much everything. The tents and sleeping bags we sent them guarantee that the workers have at least some form of accommodation during the current harvest season.
A problem currently also experienced in Germany is the short supply of face masks. Without them, participation in public life is all but impossible. And yet there are many people who simply cannot afford to buy them. Africa Unita has set itself the goal of providing free face masks to refugee shelters as well as homeless refugees. They asked us if we could help them with some initial equipment, as the association has no funds to buy it. So we browsed through the offerings of Italian online shops, looking for the products with the shortest delivery times: two sewing machines, scissors, rulers, thread, and elastic bands.
We are very happy that we were able to invest in a long-term project. The sewing machines will continue to be used after the coronavirus pandemic. Furthermore, we believe that donations are much more effective if refugees decide for themselves what they need rather than outsiders making decisions. Since we began our work, it has been our goal to contribute to the independence and self-empowerment of newly arrived fellow citizens.
Because of this, working with Africa Unita has been rewarding. The act of forming the association was hard work for people from many different countries who started a completely new life in Italy, and who also have to permanently fight against political resistance. All the more reason to be happy that the association is growing and investing in long-term projects like establishing the small tailor shop. We wish you all the best and thank you for making this possible!