Alhassane came to Italy as a refugee from Niger. An Italian family decided to host him in their home, enabling him to study to become a healthcare worker.
"The people of this place finally see me as a human, a person," says Alhassane Hamidou Abdoulaye, a 23-year-old from Niger, in a video shared by the organization Refugees Welcome Italia on their Facebook page.
Alhassane reportedly arrived in Italy in 2017, after leaving his native Niger for Libya, then setting off on the dangerous sea crossing to southern Italy.
After his arrival in Sicily, he first lived in reception centers and worked in the fields with other migrants who were "working under the table, [...] do not speak Italian and basically are not part of society," he recounts in the video.
Living with family helps integration
But then Alhassane got lucky: He was able to move in with a local family in Bari province, southeastern Italy, who welcomed him into their home as part of a Refugees Welcome Italia project that seeks to foster the integration of recently arrived foreigners by setting them up with host families.
While living with the family, Alhassane was able to dedicate his time to studying -- in 2021, he got a diploma to work in the healthcare sector. This, he says in the video, has "always been my dream."
He also works as a cultural mediator in the multifunctional reception center Casa delle Culture in the San Paolo district. He has plans to get his own apartment soon.
Over 100 refugees found host families
"Alhassane's path exemplifies the benefits that a different reception model can have on refugees, thanks in part to the support of local institutions, the involvement of which is essential to make reception in families widespread," said Fabiana Musicco, Refugees Welcome Italia director.
Some 113 refugees have been placed in families since 2019 as part of the Refugees Welcome Italia initiative that helped Alhassane find a host family, and 90% of the refugees have since achieved full autonomy, according to the organizers.
The project is financed by the Interior Ministry through its Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, in collaboration with the Bari, Rome, Palermo, Ravenna and Macerata municipalities and the University of Tor Vergata.