I am Richard and I was born on February 3, 1995, in Agomé Tomékbé. I am an only child. My mother passed away on August 3, 2021. My father still lives in Agomé Tomékbé. My father is a teacher, my mother sold fabrics. I have two children, Theresa and Israel. I have not been with their mother for a year.
I studied mathematics for two years, but because of my father’s health, I had to stop to work and help my father. I then trained to be a chef. Now I am a chef. I did my training in Lomé and now I have three years of experience. I used to do catering, but now I manage a hotel that is in Lomé. But the salary at the end of the month is not enough to cover my needs and the needs of my children. I earn 80,000 FCFA (about €122) a month. I rent a room in Kpalimé for me and my children and I rent a room in Lomé to be on site when I work in the hotel. The room in Kpalimé costs 45,000 FCFA (about €68) and the one in Lomé costs 35,000 FCFA (about €53) per month. So, given my salary, I can’t manage everything, and I have to work on the side. I clean or cook for people and can get a little money together that way, for example 40,000 (about 61 €) or 50,000 FCFA (about 76 €) extra per month. It depends on the kindness of the people. At the end of each month, I try to put some money in my account to save a little.
I want to go to Europe, first of all, to learn about European culture. I am a percussionist and play Djembé. Since I’m a cook, I also want to learn about their cuisine. And I want to help the people there and also help my children here. I always wanted to go to an orphanage to help the children, both in Europe and here. I would like to give out notebooks, pens, etc. If I go to Europe, it will be to help people, make humanitarian donations, and help associations. I can do any work. If I want to help, I can do volunteer work. For example, because there are attacks sometimes, you have to distribute medicine.
I used to be the president of an association in Togo that made humanitarian donations. We shared exercise books, school supplies, and paid for children to go to school. I know roughly how things work in an association. I am willing to do anything to make my life successful and help people. Making my life successful means helping. If I help people, that’s fine with me.
Life is not easy everywhere. You see it on TV and hear the news. You see that life is difficult there. But the living conditions are safer than here. It’s hard in Europe, too. But if you are a worker or a fighter, you have to fight. There are taxes, there are things you have to do, and there are expenses. Every time you work, you have to spend money. There are always things you have to pay.
I don’t have any friends there in Europe. I met a Togolese acquaintance in Lomé on the beach and he told me about Europe. He told me that you always have to work there. I feel like working. I can do any work. It can be cooking or something else. I can do it. I am a man. And because of my children, I’ll do anything so they can succeed. Before my mother died, she took care of the children. Now it’s my responsibility.
I always imagined coming to Germany because it’s quiet there. If there are problems, I know there is a backup. And I like the German language. I don’t speak it, but I can write it because I went to a bilingual German school, but I neglected learning to speak the language.
I haven’t inquired about how to leave yet. I have a friend who was going to take me to America in 2014. He made my passport for me. But it hasn’t worked out because he can’t find the time. He always tells me to wait, wait, wait.
If I find the means, I would go with my children, but if I don’t find the means, I will go alone. If I go to Europe, I have to find a sponsor who can help the children there. If that’s not the case, I might as well go alone and see how I get along with the kids. It is the children who block me.
I listen to what people say. And to come to Europe, first you need an invitation. Someone has to invite you, then you need an accommodation, you need everything. But I myself haven’t done that yet, so I don’t know exactly how that works. I don’t want to leave in an illegal way. I have a friend in Italy who entered through Algeria. He told me that it is very hard, that people are dying, and that I would suffer.
I don’t know where I will be in ten years. If I tell you something, I will probably be wrong because I don’t know what will happen tomorrow …. In ten years, I want to build an orphanage in Togo. I love children.
- Thanks to Genevieve Soucek for translating this interview from German.