Mamadou: “If I’d known what was going to happen, I wouldn’t have come.”

Posted on Actualizado enn

While he climbs the mountains Mamadou recalls his plans: Stop drop-outs in their country of origin.


‘I left school for the European Dream, I thought I would succeed as a footballer, like Messi! Now he’s got a job and is immersed in a multitude of social initiatives.

Estaon in Pallars Sobirà is not a typical retreat. It’s not in the mountains but in the centre of a village of stone houses with few inhabitants. Maria Anna Cañas and her partner are the only people who live year-round in Estaon. They’re responsible for this small, well-kept refuge with a family feel. The stage today which connects Estaon with Tavascan begins with rain, and Mamadou Saliou Diallo, aged 21, dons for the first time his capelin- his special cap. He’s not used to walking in the mountains, but he’s an athlete, so it’s no trouble for him to slide down steep slopes. In fact, it was football that brought him to Barcelona; he wanted to become the African Messi.

Mamadou was born in Guinea Conakry, but soon moved with his family to Casamance in Senegal. As a child he was skilled with a football, and with the support of his parents, aged 16, he boarded a fishing boat which dropped him somewhere on the Spanish coast. ‘I came to succeed,’ he says proudly. After landing, someone got him on a train bound for Barcelona. ‘I didn’t know anyone; I lived on the street for a while until some other Senegalese suggested I to go to the Red Cross. From there I was taken to a Centre for Minors, The Generalitat,’ he explains this as he arrives at the Borda de Calatxo. This is where the group making the Pyrenean crossing try to protect themselves from the rain -which comes and goes for a good while.

‘I left school at the age of 16 for the European Dream. People who returned to Senegal explained to us what life was like here, I thought I would succeed as a footballer or to at least find a job with a salary of 1,500 Euro a month.’ Soon he realized that Europe was not Paradise. ‘Perhaps I was wrong. But I was here anyway, determined to learn, wanting to see the world, and ready to participate in thousands of projects.’ In three months he was speaking Spanish and started training with different organisations: the Casal dels Infants, Punt de Referència, the Fundación Exit, Nexes Punt. ‘I took courses in computing, electricity, repairing bikes, cooking courses, and then the professional qualification programme. I’d like to be social educator.’

Mamadou has been taking advantage of all the opportunities that have come his way, he has fared well. But he’s witnessed the marginalization in which many immigrants live. This is what he wants to portray in his short films.If I didn’t know about it myself, I wouldn’t have suggested showing the difficulties encountered by young Africans arriving in Catalonia. This short film won the second prize in the festival All Of Us Are Different. He has made other films. ‘ In the The Casal dels Infants they give audio-visual classes, with the young folk there he made My Beautiful Shoes. But I wanted to launch my own message. I wrote a script and with the Coordinator of the organization Camps de Treball de Catalunya we managed to get a grant and we shot it. It’s on the theme of immigrants who live in sheds in Poblenou.

On arriving at Collada de Jou, Richard Wagers, the Canadian mountaineer who joined the group Trans Pyrenean Trek for Social Inclusion, suggests a small picnic since it’s his last day. He wants to finish the provisions he has left- cheese, ham, tomatoes, bread, fruit. In a few days Wagers will fly back to Alberta. The meal is improvised on a flat piece of land at 1.800 meters, the sun is radiant and the views spectacular. The path then runs down the mountain to Tavascan, passing by Aineto Lleret. In the latter villages, the walkers do not see a single soul. Perhaps it’s siesta time?

Mamadou wants to make it clear that the support of the social organisation has been instrumental in his personal evolution. ‘In the Fundació Èxit I was selected to participate in the project Coach, this meant assigning you to a voluntary person; in my case the Director of Human Resources of Diesel, it was about getting to know the company from the inside and to be mentoredfor my future work’. This stage served to show his qualities and also detect his weak points. Shortly after he got a job at the bike shop Colors Bike,therehe worked for two years. He’s not a football star; this season he will play with Montbau in the third league, but he’s found other things that are fulfilling, and he’s managed to become independent. He’s rented a flat in the Paral which he shares with two other people. NGOs have been his crutch and like Luciano Leoni, the protagonist of yesterday’s stage, now that he’s reached a certain level of stability he wants to help those who are having a hard time. His obsession is to convince kids in Senegal who drop out of school that it’s wrong to come to Europe, it doesn’t always work out.

At first, I also thought: if I’d known about the difficulties I wouldn’t have come. At the moment my life is great, but I’m an exception ‘.

Now he’s setting up his own organization Diandé África. Its mission is to curb the dropout rate in schools in Casamance. The first step will be to provide scholarships for 30 children with academic monitoring.

Mamadou arrives in Tavascan – the end of the stage- with a firm step, and continues to talk about plans, plans and more plans.

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