Yolanda Akpoli: “Migrant people have energy, projects, dreams and the will to fight”

Yolanda Akpoli: “Migrant people have energy, projects, dreams and the will to fight”

By Victoria Hita.

Interview with Yolanda Akpoli, promoter of the Union of Second Opportunities.

Days later after doing the interview you are about to read, I thought that in this world there are two types of women: those who, for whatever reasons, find everything a bit done and women who yes themselves Without a doubt, Yolanda Akpoli (1980, Lomé, Togo) belongs to the second group. After precarious work, studies and collaborations in non-profit associations, with two colleagues she set up the Union of Second Opportunities. The organization, located in the La Salut district, in Badalona, ​​provides (paid) work to eight women.

Before arriving in Catalonia in 2008, the Togolese Yolanda Akpoli lived in France for four years. Theirs was a migration for social and economic reasons. He has two sons, aged 18 and 16, and a 14-year-old daughter, who was born with health problems. In 2013 she became a widow and had to adapt, once again, to the new situation. She worked in the mornings in “precarious jobs: taking care of old and young people, cleaning…”, she studied in the afternoons and obtained a degree in Business Administration and Marketing. In the evenings she volunteered in solidarity associations. With experience in social economy and her past in Africa she felt empowered to become a woman entrepreneur.

As a child, with my friends, we collected and recycled objects, clothes… We made toys for dolls, bags from different textiles… we paraded with the clothes we found, sewed and transformed. It was a safe space and we had a good time.

This background has helped you to start a life project.

The philosophy of the Union of Second Opportunities is to reuse clothes, furniture… and also fight against food waste.

How many people benefit from the projects you promote?

Our audience is essentially female. We have a WhatsApp communication group of 175 families and collaborators, people from the neighborhood. There are many older women who live alone and find in our physical space a safe space to talk about everything.

How and when do you start?

With two other friends we knew from the AFA of the Pau Casals Institute, we look at which areas of Badalona have the most needs and open a charity shop in April 2021 in the La Salut neighborhood. It works from Monday to Saturday. Now, eight women work there every day.

All in the same store?

We have two other projects. Three months after launching the store, we won the tender for the bar in the Casal de Barri de Trinitat Nova, in Barcelona. There we offer cooking and sewing courses, we organize talks… And for a year we have also been at the bar of the Higher School of Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Assets of Catalonia. We support students with second-hand books, recycle food and buy Km 0 consumer products.

How can the work you develop be summarized in concrete objectives?

Clothing store, sewing workshop and fight against waste.

Against waste?

Textiles are the second most polluting industry on the planet. We want to raise awareness of this and food waste.

How do you get to where you and your partners are? What supports have you had? Have you benefited from subsidies?

In Africa and Latin America there are no subsidies. We have not requested them here either. We wanted to check that our project was viable. We decided this way because we believe that migrant women have energy, dreams, projects and the will to fight. To undertake is to project yourself outwardly.

What other differences are there in the process of getting a job there and here?

In Europe you have to go through more formalities, carry documentation everywhere, the journey is longer. In Africa you can sell directly from your home, on the street, in a municipal market.

How do you start when you start from nothing?

You have to stop and say to yourself: I am a vulnerable person, I have to survive and I make a plan of my life.

And from here…

You see what you can contribute to society. Migrant people have skills acquired in our place of origin and we come to give voice and have our own space to make visible the value and capabilities of women.

Which way did you go?

I don’t know how to be without studying. In France, with young children, I studied online, at home. Studying is doing things for yourself. When I arrived in Catalonia I got involved in neighborhood life, I went to cooperatives to collaborate and to civic centers to study Catalan and Spanish. Language and school are essential elements of cohesion. I was studying at the Adult School while my daughter was starting ESO. You have to be humble to do all this.

You are happy with what you have achieved.

When you get here you are worried about survival, you see yourself as a small person and therefore you need to stop, observe what your dreams are, what you need to do to achieve them and open your mind to the environment to lead a life worthy

More information : https://uniosegonesopportunities.com/