More than 30,000 African migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean. Ibrahim Kondeh narrowly escapes becoming one of them. But through luck and courage, he makes it across to Italy, although he pays a terrible price on the way. Claudia Romo Edelman and Edie Lush complete the story of this one migrant. “The story of migrants should be told more,” Ibrahim says in this episode.
“People tend to follow what the media tells about migrants and refugees — seen as people who come in to steal jobs, criminals. So, as a result, no one knows what our actual stories are. Positive stories can change the mindset of people.”
Ibrahim encounters frustration and racism in Italy. But he also is helped along the way, particularly by an innovative use of text messaging called U-report. Tanya Accone of Unicef explains that U-report connects Ibrahim and other migrants and refugees with experts who can advise them when they are at their most vulnerable, alone in a new land without language our resources.
With the help of U-report Ibrahim navigates the Italian immigration rules and enrolls in high school. “A simple SMS,” says Tanya Accone, “can it change your life? I think Ibrahim would say, yes, it has.”
Facts and actions are offered by one of the creators of U-report, Mathias Devi Nielsen of Unicef.
“U-report is a tool for all youth to raise their voices battle stereotypes connecting youth to serve on a global scale. “
U-report currently operates in 65 countries with 8.5 million uses. It is growing rapidly. Mathias invited companies, agencies, NGOs and youth groups to partner with u report to help provide migrants and refugees with answers to their questions
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Ibrahim Adnan Kondeh, is a young man, 20 years of age, from Sierra Leone. He lived in a village with his family, helping with the farm and local shops. As a result of his family’s huge sacrifice, he used to go to school there, so he wasn’t among the poorest. Sadly, he was forced to escape when approached by a secret society that “grooms boys to become men”, facing tortures and threats. He then went on a journey eventually making his way into Italy. He arrived in Italy as an unaccompanied minor 3 years ago at the age of 17. The way there was not easy. He was kept as a slave in various locations on this journey. His boat was rescued crossing the Mediterranean Sea. His arrival at a reception center for refugees in Calabria was not very welcoming, the center was very crowded and would not offer services, such as education, for minors. After overcoming these roadblocks, and even learning Italian, Ibrahim was recognized as a bright writer, winning renowned competitions, such as the Moleskine Foundation and the U-Report Contests. Once his voice was heard, he became a U-Ambassador and active member on the platform and U-Blogger on the move. Thanks to his active participation, he applied to Refugees Welcome for a chance to be hosted by an Italian family, He was accepted and is now living there. He was also granted the Never Alone bid for a 2-year scholarship at the renowned United World College of the Adriatic.
Tanya Accone’s career has focused on helping international public and private sector organizations understand how to amplify their impact through the convergence of people, ecosystems and innovation. She is committed to applying innovation for social impact and as a public good, especially with and for young people.
Accone has been at the forefront of advocating for and leading ground-breaking initiatives at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). As Senior Advisor on Innovation at Scale, she has led UNICEF’s Global Innovation Centre to support 90 countries to identify, adopt and adapt innovative solutions that have changed the lives of 180 million children and their communities.
Among these initiatives are U-Report, a youth engagement and empowerment platform that facilitates 8 million young people in 60 countries to speak out on development issues, support child rights and improve their communities. And UPSHIFT, an initiative that empowers youth to build skills and opportunities through social innovation and entrepreneurship.
Accone joined UNICEF to design the organization’s first internet strategy and led its implementation in more than 100 countries. UNICEF received the internet-equivalent of an Oscar – a Webby Award – from The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences in recognition of the excellence of part of this work. She went on to establish and lead the organization’s human capital futures and analytics portfolio.
Prior to joining UNICEF, Accone worked in the private sector. She was part of the team that first took The Washington Post digital, and has launched technology businesses across sub-Saharan Africa.
Accone is a Fulbright Fellow with multiple graduate degrees including in Studies of the Future. She is the fourth-generation of her Chinese family to be born in South Africa, where she spent her childhood on the outskirts of Tshwane. She tweets at @accone.
Mathias Devi Nielsen is a Youth & Innovation Specialist for UNICEF’s Office of Innovation. He manages the Global U-Report platform, a social messaging and youth empowering platform aiming to increase youth voices in legislation and setting the global agenda. With a background in Displacement and Emergency Response, Mathias has been deployed for the past 3 years in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and North-East Nigeria for the International NGO Danish Refugee Council.