Canary Islands: Spaniard uses garage as language school for migrants

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As authorities in Spain’s Canary Islands continue to tackle the continued arrival of large numbers of irregular migrants, a local man has turned his garage into a classroom to give Spanish lessons to new arrivals.

A group of young men are seated at wooden desks, eagerly writing the Spanish alphabet and saying the letters. But their class is anything but ordinary: around them there is a van, bikes and a surfboard.

This is the garage of Tito Martin, a Spaniard who lives in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. About a year ago, Martin started noticing a lack of resources for the growing number of migrant arrivals in the Atlantic archipelago that he calls home, reports the Reuters Press Agency.

So Martin, one of the 2.2. million inhabitants, started a makeshift language course in his own garage.

“I thought it was time to stop agreeing with the news and comments on the [migrant] situation and take action. “

More than 26,000 African migrants have landed on the island group’s coasts in the past 11 months, overwhelming authorities and arrival facilities. After initially being housed in hotels and other tourist facilities, mostly empty due to the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of people have been moved to camps whose conditions have been criticized by rights groups.

Read more: “A child needs more than food and shelter”: the plight of unaccompanied minors in the Canary Islands

More than a classroom

“I want to learn Spanish. Before living in Senegal, I had never been to school, I couldn’t read,” said Mar Low, 25, who comes to his tutor’s garage three days a week. week. He arrived in the Canaries eight months ago.

After 14 days at sea, five of which were without food or water, a Spanish rescue ship rescued him and the other passengers from the boat he was on. “If they hadn’t helped us we would all be dead for sure,” he said.

Mohamed Gueye, Mor Low and Ali Thiam, migrants from Senegal, take Spanish lessons in Tito Martin’s private garage, in Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain July 21, 2021 | Photo credit: REUTERS / Borja Suarez
Isabel Florido and Tito Martin give Spanish lessons to a group of Senegalese migrants arriving on the island by boat, in Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain July 21, 2021 |  Photo credit: REUTERS / Borja Suarez
Isabel Florido and Tito Martin give Spanish lessons to a group of Senegalese migrants arriving on the island by boat, in Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain July 21, 2021 | Photo credit: REUTERS / Borja Suarez
A group of Senegalese migrants arriving on the island by boat receive Spanish lessons in the private garage of Tito Martin, in Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain July 21, 2021 |  Photo credit: REUTERS / Borja Suarez
A group of Senegalese migrants arriving on the island by boat receive Spanish lessons in the private garage of Tito Martin, in Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain July 21, 2021 | Photo credit: REUTERS / Borja Suárez
Ali Thiam, a migrant from Senegal, learns Spanish from the volunteer teacher Isabel Florido in the private garage of Tito Martin, in Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain July 21, 2021 |  Photo credit: REUTERS / Borja Suarez
Ali Thiam, a migrant from Senegal, learns Spanish from the volunteer teacher Isabel Florido in the private garage of Tito Martin, in Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain July 21, 2021 | Photo credit: REUTERS / Borja Suarez

Isabel Florido, a local French and English teacher, contacted Martin when she heard about her initiative. She is now part of a group of volunteers who teach Spanish.

“I am a conscious person, aware of what is going on around me and the reality is… my island is suffering right now, I care,” she said.

Marin’s garage doesn’t just serve as a classroom. He also provides his students with a safe haven – a place to shower and have a bite to eat.

“What I got above all from the boys was gratitude, despite their desperate situation,” he said.

Read also : “Every boat is in danger” – the rescue of migrants trying to reach the Canary Islands

This article is based on a Reuters article by Jessica Jones


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