This is the interesting story of Marie Terese Mukamitsindo, founder and president of the Karibu Cooperative, received the MoneyGram Award for her work and as Migrant Entrepreneur of The Year.
The webpage www.tpi.it tells the story of Marie Terese, who left Rwanda in 1994, while the country suffered war and genocide, and arrived in Italy in 1996. During these two years, she travelled around various African countries with her four children until she was able to get false documents from a Kenyan woman. So she took a plane with three of her children to reach Italy and apply for political asylum.
Marie Terese says that the lack of a reception system and an information platform for the asylum application struck her when she arrived in Italy. She applied at the airport but the Police closed her for a week in prison at the airport, along with her children of 17, 8 and 5 years. So she was moved to the Police Headquarters where, instead of completing the asylum application as they should have done, the officials gave to her a document to leave the Country and for two years she formally remained irregular in Italy. But she had not given up. Marie Terese did not speak Italian, but she read the law and she translated it with a French vocabulary. Then she came back to the Police Headquarters and she presented an appeal. When the Police realized the mistake, the asylum application was immediately resumed and in 1998 hes request for international protection was granted.
Meanwhile, after living in a reception centre, Marie Terese settled in Sezze, near Latina where she worked as carer for an elderly lady, from 13 to 7 in the morning, up to support her children. At the end of the nineties the local people who knew Marie Terese collected signatures to apply for a residence permit for her. She says that “it was great to receive support from the people asking for my documents”.
After the validation in Italy of her university degree as social worker, Marie Terese had the idea of creating a social cooperative.
When a national asylum call was published in 2011, she went to the mayor of Sezze to ask him to participate. He accepted and in July Marie Terese opened a center for single women with children in the town.
The cooperative that Marie Terese founded is “Karibu” and it deals with receiving migrants. Now she employs 159 people (social workers, psychologists, cultural mediators), including 147 Italians.
Today Karibu manages 4 SPRAR (Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees), but also projects for training young people.
Marie Terese also raises awareness with the African countries to ensure that, if migrants return to their countries of origin or in neighboring countries, they will have a decent repatriation. Marie Terese emphasizes that a spirit of peace has to be revived and that if those who arrived in Italy desire to return to their country, they have to come back, but Italian people have to provide them with a know-how that allows them to reformulate their life project.