The testimony of Alessandra Pierella

Alessandra: her experience in Senegal

Let’s start from the beginning: Alessandra Pierella, 30 years old, from Chiaravalle (Marche Region). I’m currently writing from Senegal.

In this moment I’m living between Ourossogui, in Matam region (in the North-East of Senegal, on the border with Mauritania) and Dakar, the capital of the country. This is not because I’m passionate about exhausting journeys – a seven-hour potholed road with goats crossing and buses filled with people/things/animals - but because of my job that, fortunately, is also my passion.

I arrived in Senegal on April 28, 2013. It was a Sunday night, and once I exited the airport I saw no one, none of the people who should have come to pick me up at the airport with a signboard with my name written on it. On the other hand, there were about a hundred of other people, apparently quite similar to each other, a bit messy and noisy.

I called the number of the contact person I had with me and here was Cheikh: tall, thin, smiling who said to me "Alexandrààà, I'm here. Get on the road, I'll get the car”. I went to the road, the car arrived and we stopped in the middle of a roundabout to load my suitcases, just like that, with calm and without pressure. This is where, for the first time, I thought, "Here I am, I am in Africa".

Actually, I already had been in Africa, but not this Africa, not to the south of the Sahara Desert. Over time, I realized it was like not having ever been there: same continent, two different worlds.

I arrived in the “black continent” thanks to the René Cassin fellowship, funded by the Legislative Assembly of the Emilia-Romagna Region, after my second-level Master in International Cooperation, Development and Human Rights at the University of Bologna in March 2012. I received a call from Bologna about 10 days after arriving in Barcelona for a European Union “Leonardo” project and having this new opportunity, I decided not to stay in the NGO where I was working in Barcelona and start this new adventure (to the joy of my parents!).

The Universitas Program director for KIP School had included me in a project of the Italian Cooperation which intervened in the field of local development: CIDEL - Innovative Knowledge and Local Development, run by the competent Senegalese Ministry. After a brief period spent at the UTL (Local Technical Unit of the Italian Cooperation), I went to the Ministry’s Unit which managed the project: a total immersion in style and customs of the Teranga country (“hospitality” in Wolof, one of the Senegalese languages). Being the only foreigner in the office, I think, was fundamental for my evolution, both personal and professional (indeed, after just a week I already had a Senegalese name: Adja).

I stayed until the end of the project in the summer of 2015, and during this period I had the opportunity to evolve and really learn a lot: I went from preparing documents to planning and organizing activities, both at national and international level. I learned things that changed my vision of the world and came to know people who, by being part of my life, made me discover new sounds, colours, knowledge and flavours while becoming a second family to me. A big, colourful, complicated family, but with wonderful smiles.

The project dealt with local development starting directly from the resources and potential of the territories, trying to promote them locally, nationally and internationally. Within this framework, the three main activities of the project were realized: the presentation brochures and the territorial marketing training for local actors of Kaolack and Sédhiou regions (priority intervention areas of the project), the national contest on innovative practices in local development and summer schools (professional training courses organized for the two Senegalese regions in collaboration with the Liguria and Emilia-Romagna regions on the theme of development, citizen participation and tourism as drivers of local development). All the work was exhibited and presented at the Milan World Expo 2015 during the Senegalese week that the CIDEL program organized in the KIP Pavilion.

Once the project was completed, I continued to follow the activities with the same Ministry on behalf of KIP, in order to ensure the sustainability of the project results. An association has since been created to provide the follow-up needed to ensure the success of the actions undertaken during the CIDEL project.

A few months ago, I started collaborating with the NGO Green Cross Italia as project manager in the region of Matam and, in parallel, I continue to follow the activities of the association that has recently signed a tripartite agreement with the Ministry and KIP.

I must surely thank "René Cassin Prize" for most of the objectives, professional and personal, that I have achieved in my life so far. I am convinced that it is a great opportunity that the Legislative Assembly offers to young people willing to try, experiment and start their career. Surely an example to follow!


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