Journalist: Apostolos Staikos
Operator/Editor: Simon Chabas
The bridge of the ship looks like a spaceship. Everywhere there are bright screens, dozens of buttons and navigation instruments. Ali Sina sits in the captain’s seat. In front of him, on a giant screen, he can see the bow of the ship and the entrance to the port of Istanbul. The weather is good. The 22-year-old refugee has to steer the tanker safely into the harbour.
A few minutes later, the mission is completed. Only Ali is not at sea, but in the simulator of a maritime training school in Piraeus. The course is conducted in the school’s simulator, which is an exact replica of a ship’s bridge. The instructor gives directives to the students and informs them about the weather conditions they will face. In the next lesson, the ship will have to pass through the straits of Singapore in the middle of a storm.
“I had never seen the sea, just a lake when I was a kid. Now I’m studying to be a sailor and soon I’ll be crossing the oceans. I can’t wait to be on board, I have a lot to learn. I couldn’t have imagined choosing this profession, but the money is good, and the work gives me perspective,” says Ali Sina.
Of course, before starting his new life on the “seas of the world”, the 22-year-old made another long journey, starting in Afghanistan and ending in Greece. He left his homeland and his family in search of a safe environment in Europe. After many difficulties and hardships, he arrived as an unaccompanied minor in Lesvos in August 2016. He remained on the island for about a year and a half. He was transferred to Athens and in August 2018 he joined METAdrasi’s Semi-Independent Living Programme for unaccompanied minors aged 16+.
“It was a very important experience. I got my own house, roommates and good friends. We shared chores and I became more responsible. I was able to go to school and get my diploma. Of course, I always had METAdrasi’s people by my side. No matter what happened, I knew they would help me,” Ali maintains.
Furthermore, the young refugee learned Greek and English thanks to the efforts of volunteers who go to the apartments and teach the children. In his free time, he took guitar lessons and went to the gym regularly.
In 2019 Ali came of age and joined the 18+ Programme. This is METAdrasi’s innovative programme for young, adult refugees, which aims to support them in order to continue their efforts for independence and integration into society. The people of the Organisation stand beside the young refugees during the difficult process of coming of age and until they manage to stand on their own two feet, totally independent. METAdrasi’s 18+ Programme was launched in 2018, filling an important gap, since there exists no support framework for former unaccompanied minors. To date, 317 refugees have joined the 16+ and 18+ programmes.
Having resolved the issue of housing and meeting his basic needs, Ali is now focused on his future career. METAdrasi appreciated his dynamic character and determination. After receiving appropriate training, he was employed as a caregiver in the Semi-Independent Living Programme for unaccompanied minors. For three years, he offered the adolescents what the caregivers of the Organisation had offered him when he was in their position.
“The supervised apartments provide care and protection to unaccompanied minors. We create an environment in which they can live and grow while having access to goods, services and activities. The ultimate goal is for them to believe in themselves and integrate into society, experiencing a smooth transition to adulthood,” says Penny Keramida, who is in charge of the programme.
Although he loved his job, at some point Ali felt that he had come full circle as a caregiver for unaccompanied children. He thought about what job would be interesting, could provide him with a good income and also some career progression.
He decided to take up the sea, to become a sailor. But he did not know where to go, which school he could attend and how he could work on a ship. Once again, METAdrasi’s people supported the young refugee who decided to start a new chapter in his life. They gathered information and advised him to choose the right school. METAdrasi also supported his choice financially through donations for the first year, since Ali could not cover the tuition fees with his own resources.
In January 2023, he started his studies at a naval training school in Piraeus. The beginning was difficult. Ali had to adapt to a new environment, with new classmates, as well as become familiar with nautical terminology. Thanks to systematic study and a lot of effort, the 22-year-old managed to progress and become a member of the team, with some help from a 16-year-old volunteer who helped him in English.
“Ali is a very diligent student. He works and has passed all the tests. To begin with there was an issue with the language, but we both worked at it, and he managed to improve. I think he will have a bright future because he works hard and sets goals for himself. He’s been through a lot to get here and he’s not giving up,” says Alexandros Basiotis, Head of Studies at GMC Maritime Academy & Training Center.
After completing the first term of theoretical training, Ali is now sailing aboard a merchant ship. Just before embarking on the new journey, he said a few words about the people who have been at his side over the past few years.
“METAdrasi helped me a lot, gave me a home. I joined a community that became my new family. But the most important thing is that they believed in me, they trusted me. They gave me a job. A refugee doesn’t find a job easily, things are difficult. The Organisation helped me to stand on my feet and make a new start.”
After his internship on the ship, he has to return to the classrooms to complete his three-year training. Only then will he put on the midshipman’s uniform and begin his career at sea.
METAdrasi’s family is particularly proud of the progress of the 22-year-old refugee. Today, we are proud of the student and tomorrow of the Captain Ali Sina.
If you would like to support Ali’s efforts to complete his studies, you can make a donation here.
* Please note in your deposit the indication “For Ali’s studies”.