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. He was a regular wandering around town to pass the time during the day. We became acquainted, and after the November 28, 2016 boat arrived carrying his two sisters, the three of us sat down together. 

The following is Alagie’s story, the big brother of the threesome. He did not want his picture shared. 


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 post that barely out-ran a severe thunderstorm. 

I met the girls less than 15 hours after they arrived and were processed in Lampedusa; so I imagine there was still a good deal of shock in their systems; they had very little to say about their journey when I asked and I did not press for answers.

There was also a language barrier between us. The three siblings speak Mandinka (one of numerous tribal dialects in The Gambia), and English, as well; Alagie has had more education than his sisters though, and so was able to communicate more fluidly with me. He often translated my questions to the girls, so part of the reason why they may not have responded was because they may not have understood what I was asking.

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 shyly repeated again and again that they wanted to go to school.

Maiama, Mariama & Alagie are amazing human beings.