A Voluntary Victory

Working as a volunteer in the Olympic Games, Dabo Sekou says how has left behind uncertainty to believe in happiness again. Story Sponsored by GE.

Rio de Janeiro— Anyone who sees the smiling and communicative Dabo Sekou working as a volunteer at the entrance of the Olympic Tennis Centre in the Olympic Park, can not imagine his life before Rio.  The moments of uncertainty when he decided to leave his home and life, one year ago, to try a fresh start miles away. The 26-year-old, born and raised in Guinea, lives and works in Duque de Caxias, the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro, and considers Brazil his new homeland.

Religion as a crime

The output of the capital Conakry was motivated by pain and fear. Dabo’s mother occupied the top post in a voodoo practitioner group.  After her death, Dabo was forced to take her place. Denied by the religions practices to see his mother off how he would have liked he was left feeling pain and anger. He denied the responsibility to take her place and lead the religious group.  Both as a matter of personal belief and the prejudice that, according to the young, the voodoo practitioners still suffer. Then, he was persecuted and threatened. Hopeless, he received a weird suggestion from a friend who was born in Ghana: run away and try to enter in Brazil. Living in Rio de Janeiro, he adapted and received refugee papers. Now, he is waiting for the official immigrant papers.

Despite a harrowing journey to Brazil, Dabo is still hopeful about the future. 

"I cannot imagine another life than that in Brazil. Dreams I learned to leave behind once again take place in my life and I feel I can now realize them ",name? says - between a haircut and cleaning the room.

Hard work and new possibilities

He works from Monday to Saturday in a small beauty salon, founded by Angolan immigrants at a small shopping center. There, other immigrants dreams and their African roots unite the hair brushes, scissors and style. When we arrived at the salon, Dabo was drawing very fine lines in the hair of a customer who wanted a hairstyle like the Brazilian soccer players. Dabo had a chance to learn the profession, just 3 months arriving in Brazil.

Dabo working as hairstylist in Duque de Caxias city, Rio de Janeiro. 

An inside look into the shop where Dabo works

"In Conakry I used to cut the hair of friends and neighbors but never imagined working as professional. As soon as I arrived in Brazil, an Angolan gave me a job in a hair salon in downtown. After three months observing and helping I decided to save money and do full classes. Now, I am a professional," he said.

Olympics for everyone

The chance to work as a volunteer in the 2016 Olympic Games was an opportunity to learn more. For Dabo, contact with people from around the world, making new friends and engaging in an event that preaches peace among peoples, was something unique. "I felt I needed to put my heart at the event, and also I could collaborate with it in a country that helped me so much. I also saw the opportunity to get other work,” he said.

The young man also works as a volunteer at Olympics Tennis Centre

Model Life

Tall and beautiful, Dabo began claiming attention and has been invited to work as a model in an agency in Rio de Janeiro. He currently divides his time between work full time in the beauty salon, being a volunteer three times a week, and the fashion shows or photo essays. "I think no one is happy completely abandoning his country and leaving its roots elsewhere. But now, I am here to dream again, be happy and continue to win”.

While working as volunteer, Dabo was scouted to begin a career as a fashion model

All Photos Credit: Ricardo Matsukawa 

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