Meet Maiama, Mariama & Alagie

(L-R) Maiama and Mariama, one day after their rescue on the Mediterranean. Lampedusa, Italy; 29 November 2016. ©Pamela Kerpius

(L-R) Maiama and Mariama, one day after their rescue on the Mediterranean. Lampedusa, Italy; 29 November 2016. ©Pamela Kerpius


Meet Maiama, Mariama and Alagie.

The first person I met from the family was Alagie, the big brother. It was early during my last stay in Lampedusa when I did. He was a regular wandering around town to pass the time. As we became acquainted and after the November 28, 2016 boat arrived carrying his two sisters, the three of us decided to sit down together and talk.

The following is Alagie’s story. He did not want his picture taken.

Meet Alagie.

18 years old and from Gambia.

To reach Lampedusa he crossed six countries: The Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and the most dangerous of all, Libya.

His journey took four months. He “helped himself,” he said, by leaving Gambia. When he reached Agadez, Niger it was hot and there was no food or water.

Alagie crossed the Sahara desert in one week with 25 people; they had 6 gallons of water to share. He reached Libya and stayed there for three months. Two weeks of that time were in prison. Everyday he was beaten. There was no food or water. He would rummage through trash bins for food.

When he finally left, he stayed at the coastal camp for two weeks; he slept on a mat.

He crossed the Mediterranean Sea in a rubber dinghy with 140 people at 2:00am, 12 of whom were women. They were at sea for six hours with no compass or cell phone to find a sense of direction.

The engine broke and fell into the sea.

I don’t have any information about what he and the others did between the time the engine broke and the Guardia Costiera, the Italian Coast Guard, rescued them.

His sisters, Maiama Kam (17) and Mariama Bah (18) arrived in the late evening of November 28, on the same boat I described in an earlier story that barely out-ran a severe thunderstorm. 

I met both of the girls less than 15 hours after they arrived and were processed in Lampedusa; for what I’m determining to be shell-shock from the experience, they had almost nothing to say about their own specific journey. They remained mostly mute in the face of questions.

The three siblings speak Mandinka (a tribal dialect spoken in The Gambia), and English, as well; but Alagie has had more education than his sisters and so was able to communicate more fluidly. He often translated my questions to the girls, so part of the reason why they may not have responded is because they may not have understood English.

One thing was made clear among all three of them: they want an education. All are eager to learn both English and Italian. Alagie, like almost everyone I spoke to, loves football. His favorite team is Chelsea F.C. As for the girls, they only repeated again and again with shy smiles that they wanted to go to school.

Maiama, Mariama & Alagie are amazing human beings.