Abdalla Tenywa Juma Mzingo, Dullah for short - also nicknamed "Stucki Chrigu" after the Swiss wrestling champion due to his stature and height, is the gentle giant of our Root & Branch family. Dullah is participating in our inclusion program EmancipAID and is currently taking the Federal Certificate of Proficiency (EFZ) as an operational maintenance specialist in accordance with Article 32 of the Federal Vocational Training Ordinance.
Dullah was already involved in our predecessor project In-Limbo, where he worked as a supervisor and as the person responsible for maintenance and security in the collective housing in Büren an der Aare. After the collective accommodation in the responsibility of ABR (Asylum Biel and Region) changed to the Swiss Red Cross, Dullah, like all other ABR employees, had to look for a new job.
Although he is passionate about computers, Dullah realized that an EFZ apprenticeship with a degree would open many doors for him. A vocational qualification in accordance with Art. 32 also gives him the opportunity to complete his training while working, which, as a disciplined person with plenty of experience in life, he was confident he could manage.
Dullah found a follow-up solution at a local municipality's works yard. This was a lucky find, as Dullah is able to put the theory he learns at the vocational school fully into practice at the workplace.
«I came to Switzerland from Kenya in 2012 because I wanted to change my life. Sometimes change is inevitable, sometimes you seek it for different reasons.
In Kenya, I pursued some entrepreneurial adventures. I had a store in a remote village where I sold spare parts for motorcycles, one in Arusha where I traded Playstations and DVDs, I had an internet café, worked as an IT specialist and repaired computers. Computers have been my great passion for over 20 years.
I didn't have a real picture of Europe and Switzerland. It was shaped by movies, music, images of mountains and easy money. But in reality, everything was different.
I grew up in Mombasa, a tropical coastal city. When I arrived here in Switzerland in the middle of winter, I was freezing even with two pairs of socks, three jackets and gloves. The mountains are beautiful, but the climate! My body could not get used to it at first.
Then there are the basic cultural differences. In Kenya, for example, we talk to strangers all the time. We talk, joke and laugh. In Switzerland, this habit was less well received - soon no one wanted to sit next to me on the bus.
You don't get the better life in Switzerland for free. There are many obstacles that you have to overcome. You have to work hard, integrate, learn new languages, get an education.
At the beginning, I was not integrated into the Swiss system at all and had trouble finding a job. In Kenya, the majority of employers look at the experience you have gained in a professional field, since not everyone can afford a school education.
In this respect, Root & Branch has broadened my horizons. I was shown the concrete steps I need to take to advance professionally in Switzerland.
Although my IT background is not recognized here, I have come to understand that there are definitely career opportunities for me with my technical background. Now I'm training to become an EFZ maintenance specialist. I like working with my hands, I'm often outside in the fresh air and I do a lot of different things, from hedge trimming to maintenance work.
The Swiss training system has a very high standard. You have to practice patience, that is very important. But what you learn will be of great benefit to you, even for those who go back home.»