Kikeme Blessing with Alessia and Lorenzo, the Italian couple who welcomed him in their home | Photo: Refugees Welcome Italia
Kikeme Blessing with Alessia and Lorenzo, the Italian couple who welcomed him in their home | Photo: Refugees Welcome Italia

Kikeme Blessing arrived in Italy in 2017 and is now living with an Italian couple in the southern town of Restinco thanks to Refugees Welcome Italia, an organization that finds private accommodation for refugees.

After completing an international protection program in the southern Italian city of Brindisi, Kikeme Blessing, a 22-year-old Nigerian refugee, was on his own. That is when he met Alessia and Lorenzo, a couple from Brindisi who live in nearby Restinco, near the city's hosting center. The couple decided to share their home and everyday lives with Blessing thanks to the hospitality project promoted by Refugees Welcome Italia. The association was created to support those who leave hosting facilities but are not yet fully independent because they have not found a proper job or adequate accommodation.

"Everything is great," Blessing said in an interview on Wednesday. "I have been living with Alessia and Lorenzo for the past two weeks and I am truly very happy: we love each other." He added: "We are always together and share everything: last night I cooked rice with fish, it was excellent."

Blessing's journey to Italy

Blessing arrived in Italy in 2017 after a long trip. He was granted international protection and lived for a year in Carovigno (Brindisi), where he was enrolled in the project SIPROIMI, the Italian protection system for refugees. Blessing attended Italian-language lessons and learned the language, he went to school and was enrolled in several professional training courses.

Blessing left Nigeria because, he explained, "the situation wasn't good for me there and I wanted to find a place where my life would be better: I reached Sicily by boat and was transferred to the Cara (center) in Bari." He was then transferred to Carovigno, near Brindisi.

Coronavirus crisis struggles

Blessing has found work in Italy, but things have not been easy recently due to the coronavirus crisis. "I work at a restaurant now," Blessing said, "but it's not like it used to be: there are less tourists and I go three times a week."

The 22-year-old is currently working on getting a driver's license.

What's Blessing's advice to migrants and refugees who recently arrived in Italy? "Study and respect the rules and you will see that everything will be okay," he said.

The president of the Italian Recreation and Cultural association (ARCI) in Brindisi, Vincenzo Catamo, commented Blessing's story: "I think this is the real revolution... Widespread hospitality can bring true autonomy and stable integration." He added: "This and other stories prove that the fear towards immigrants evaporate and disappear when, from a nondescript and threatening crowd, they become people with faces, names and a story."