Updated: Jun 28
Għaxaqi by adoption, Bakaty B.Kanteh sends a strong message for a successful integration.
Who is Bakary B. Kanteh?
Let me begin by thanking you for coming to my house. I am 29 years old and I am from Gambia, a country in West Africa. I have been in Malta for the past 8 years, and I am living here in Ħal Għaxaq. I fell in love with this very old village where I settled in 2015 and I have never lived in any other village or any town other than Ħal Għaxaq. I sometimes call myself a Għaxaqi, that means people from Ħal Għaxaq. It is a very old village with nice people and a nice neighborhood. I never had any issue with either a neighbor or a landlord. My landlord is actually my closest neighbor, he lives just downstairs.
What do you do for a living?
I am an Assistant Aircraft Technician, working for a company specialized in maintenance of aircrafts. I really love the job and my wish is to learn more to become the best of the engineers.I have the full support of my colleagues and my employer, so now the ball is in my court to definitely improve. It is a great opportunity for me, thanks to Malta.
Many immigrants are still struggling to find their way into society. What do you think they have to do in order to integrate?
Initially, it will be challenging for anybody coming from a different country, with a different background, a different society with different norms and traditions. But as the saying goes: “if you go to Rome, do as the Romans do.” I began to have a bit of connection with local people through my colleagues because I needed to learn about Malta. From them, I learnt things about the country; some of their ideas and beliefs. We had conversations during break time or during rest hours. They were interested in questioning me about Africa and I would explain to them. In return I also asked them these questions: “I’ve seen this and it’s strange to me, I come from a different background, a different culture, this is strange for me”. They would explain, and I got used to the local ways.
So to my brothers and sisters who are really struggling to integrate, I would tell them to stand on their feet. It is not an easy thing to integrate in a country where your values and traditions are completely different. It takes effort and willingness to adjust and adapt yourself to the system that you find in place. For example, when I moved into Ħal Għaxaq, I realized that it was an old village where people and the neighborhood is quiet. So if I was a noisy guy, I would have changed to become a bit less noisy. If I’m playing music, I would shut down my windows to contain the noise. If I go out and find the street clean, I don't make it dirty. In order to integrate, I would take cultural orientation and language classes, which are currently offered by the government through the program “I Belong”. Keeping the values of society, not going against them is the key.
Watch the video of the interview
Speaking about the support from the Government, you are also part of a Youth NGO. Can you tell us more?
I am part of the migrant youth-led NGO Spark15. We are a group of refugees and asylum seekers who work in trying to bring different communities together for a betterment of our communities. We organize football tournaments, get-togethers of different refugee organizations. On behalf of the organization, I’ve attended different conferences related to migrant issues, both locally and internationally. I was part of the delegates invited to Parliament in 2017 when the Maltese government was discussing with the youth the issues of ghettoization of some communities. Spark15 was invited and we had a very fruitful discussion with some of the parliamentarians who listened to our opinion geared towards the life improvement of our communities.
What do you like about the Maltese Culture?
What I like most are the Maltese festas. I remember when I attended the one of Hamrun some years back; I was blown away. But those of Ħal Għaxaq are the best. They can last a whole week, during which people come in crowds and there are fireworks everywhere that turn the sky into beautiful colors. I always stay on my balcony, looking at the fireworks while listening to music with my earphones.
Do you have a word of appreciation for people who supported you?
I will forever remain grateful to Malta and her people. This is a country that gave us an opportunity of life. I remember very well June 8 in that rough sea, when the AFM ( Armed Forces of Malta) team came to rescue us. If they were not there at the right time, we could not have been here today conducting this interview. So whenever I think about it, I always feel grateful. I owe this country deep of gratitude. I came in here, I settled down gradually and I found work. I found very good colleagues and employers who were very supportive and helpful in every situation, in every need I had. It is very good for the people of this country. I will forever be grateful.
Background. On the occasion of World Refugee Day 2021, SuccessStories-RAS ( Success Stories among Refugees and Asylum Seekers) aims to showcase four unique lives of refugees based in Malta.
During the month of June every week, a video is published on our social media accounts, as well as on the US Embassy Malta's Face book page.
The project is done in partnership with the newspaper L'Orizzont _ It- Torca, publishing the printed and online version of the stories in Maltese.
All stories are featured here on our multilingual webzine.
This is the fourth and last article of the series. Read the Maltese version here
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