My name is Tchakpedeou Ourobou Arafat. It's a little long. Tchakpedeou is my family name and the other two are my first names. Ourobou is the traditional name and Arafat is the Islamic name. I was born in 1972 and in 2000 I left Togo and came to Germany. For the first time I lived in Hamburg and in 2004 I moved to Schwerin for family reasons, where I learned to cook and practiced this profession until 2012. Then I retrained to become a wholesale and foreign trade merchant and finally advanced training to become a day care supervisor.
I am originally from Bafilo. But I lived in Sokodé. Sokodé is a beautiful city in the middle of Togo and it is very multicultural. Almost all of Togo's great politicians spent their school and university days in Sokodé. It is a joy to live there. The fact that Togo was once a German colony can still be seen in Sokodé today. The second high school of Togo was built in Sokodé. It is really a beautiful city to live in well. Even if certain politicians have made sure that the city has strayed a bit from its good path.
Schwerin cannot be compared with Hamburg, nor with a city like Sokodé. As someone with an African mentality, it's hard here. I am used to living freely, not asking questions, moving freely and doing what I want. When I came it was hard - now it's better and at least there are shops to visit. Back then there were only offices and offices and it was difficult to find a job. At that time, the racism in Schwerin was harsh compared to Hamburg. It was a shock. But I didn't have a choice, it was about my family. Everywhere I am I try to build my future and my success. I tried to concentrate on the positive side of Schwerin. I actually planned to continue studying. When I came here I tried everything to make it work. But I was told that studying could not be supported by the Federal Employment Agency. I fought my way to the Home Office. Because of my commitment, I had contact there - it works very quickly for me: I come and establish my contacts. She was very open to me: “Mr. Tchakpedeou, it is good that you want to study, but you cannot get a place. We don't do that. There were too many Africans who we supported, who didn’t make it, and that’s why we’re not doing it anymore. ”The second reason: I was in Germany as a refugee. To study I would have had to travel back to Togo and apply for a student visa. It did not work. Finally I realized where I am, what is expected of me and how I can build a life for myself. It was'nt easy….
I always say: strength and goal are combined. If you really have a goal, you have to have strength for it. If you know from within the association that the way will be long, then you have to prepare yourself for everything that comes. I have a family and I didn't always want to do these jobs that have no future. So I had to find a solution. Whether I have enough strength for it or not, nobody cares at this moment. You look at the possibilities and choose one of them. I didn't want to be a chef. For us a cook is not a job. For us, cooking is a woman's business. When you do this job as a man, others wonder what kind of person you are. I had an offer from the Diakonie to become a tax advisor. Then I had an offer from a restaurant where I worked as a dishwasher to do an apprenticeship as a cook. I had to make a decision. So I took a look at Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and asked myself what profession I use to make contact with other people quickly. Then I decided to become a chef. Tax advisor was good in terms of reputation, but it was questionable whether I would be able to work in this profession afterwards. That's why I decided to become a chef and it was a good decision. It really helped me to get to know people quickly and to integrate.
Why Couleurs Africa? Why this club? I have gained a lot of experience and a new generation is growing up in Togo that does not want to receive gifts. They want to be active themselves and earn money for a living. We live in a globalized world. I have decided to take advantage of it and act. Why do projects in Sokodé? Because I lived there. When I was a child and in about eighth grade, there were many rivers on the way to school and therefore vegetables were grown. When you passed there it was cool and comfortable. You rode your bike and felt the fresh air on your skin. Every year my mother used to send me there to buy fresh vegetables for special occasions. Many years later I passed there and realized that this corner no longer exists. The rivers were gone. Everything was dry. That was a shock. Because it means the new generation will never be able to enjoy it. Why is that? Rubbish. The garbage is thrown away everywhere and destroys nature. When I came to Germany I noticed that it is different here, everything is clean. I think money and cleanliness go hand in hand. Where it is messy, there is no investment. So I had the idea or the dream to restore the situation from then. And to bring order to the city. A lot can develop through environmental protection. Four projects on these topics are currently running in Sokodé, which complement each other. And with staff who make a living from it. We are also trying to promote the issue of gender equality. We really did a lot.
There is a garden project run by a women's cooperative. There is an agricultural project that came about through investments. It is financed by private money from Germans who think the project is good and support it. We have made agreements on how this money will be used and under what conditions it will be repaid - that is all regulated. There are also Togoers living here who have invested. We also have a shoemaker's workshop, also financed by private investments. We also have a compost and trash project. That's five projects! I think you have to make these five projects sustainable first, make sure that the people who work in these projects can make a living from them. The garbage project alone has a duration of almost 10 years. I think we have a lot to do. And don't forget that there are two different cultures working together: Africans and Germans. It takes a lot of energy. That's why I think we'll continue with these five projects first and at some point we'll see what else we can do.
Espoire plus is our partner association. The chairman was here for Africa Day, because he was a lawyer and we had invited him. Since then we have tried to do this garbage project with Espoire Plus. This is an association that grew up through our project. When we met it was an association that ran small school projects. Through us they learned a lot about international cooperation and international concepts of how to run a company. Despite many difficulties, I am satisfied that we have managed to work together to this day. It is difficult to find someone you can trust in Africa. When our accountant says I'm satisfied, that's the basis of everything. We are really looking forward to working with the club.