When I lost all my family at the age of 15 I decided to leave the Gambia. Since I didn’t have any money to buy a bus ticket I left by foot, walking for hours towards the border of Senegal.
I had to cross five countries during my travels: Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Libya. The entire journey took me seven months. All in all, I spent a few days in Senegal, two months in Mali, a few days in Burkina Faso, one month in Niger and four months in Libya.
Since I didn’t have anyone to turn to for financial assistance I had to work in most of these places to continue my journey – I usually worked as a laborer in building construction. At a job in Mali, I met two boys who were also, like myself, trying to get by. We all had the same objective, which was to stay alive and move on. So we used to support each other and stay close since it was safer to be in a group. We also gave each other advice in regard to our individual journeys. I wonder where they are today.
I remember collapsing three times due to hunger and exhaustion. I could only afford one meal a day and I worked twelve-hour shifts, with only one 15-minute break – sometimes I didn’t know if I’d make it through the day.
Whenever I was on the road I was afraid that someone would harm me or steal my hard-earned money. At some point, traveling on a bus, we came to a checkpoint. A group of armed men waving guns demanded us to get off, line up and hand over our money. When it was my turn, I told them that I don’t have any money. They screamed at me and threatened to kill me if they would find anything on me. I was so terrified, so I gave in. They let me go and I continued my journey with nothing in my pockets.
After a ten-day drive through the Sahara desert, I finally arrived in Libya. Eventually, Libya turned out to be the most dangerous place of my entire journey, as criminal gangs target refugees for extortion. Shortly after I arrived I was kidnapped and tortured by a gang that demanded me to call my people, who should send them money. I wish I would have had someone to call, but I didn’t. Eventually, I was able to escape by running away in the middle of the night.
With the Mediterranean Sea nearby, I knew that the last leg of my journey was ahead of me. I worked in Libya for four months to get enough money to pay a smuggler who would help me cross the Mediterranean by boat.
Two days before crossing I went to the coast. I looked at the sea, so vast and endless – it didn’t seem like there is anything on the other side. Would it really be possible to cross it in a small and unsafe plastic boat?
When I boarded the boat, together with approximately 130 other people, at first I wanted to get off because I was convinced that I will die on the sea. But then I took a moment to reflect – I thought about what I had left behind at home and what it took me to get here. I decided to stay on the boat, but I knew that I could live or die, the chances were 50/50.
When we eventually reached the shores of Italy safely, I felt like the happiest person on earth. I knew that I would finally be able to move on with my life.
Numu Touray, 18, is currently a Voices of Youth blogging intern and says about himself “I like making friends, nature and traveling – I believe in determination and honesty.” Read more of his posts. Read more about Voices of Youth.