You’ve almost certainly heard of people who have crossed the sea in small boats to get away from their home countries in Africa or Asia. Life there may have become too hard, because of wars, hunger or other troubles.
But did you know that some of them are children, who get to Europe on their own, without their parents? It’s pretty scary for them to be alone. But some are lucky enough to find Charlotte and her family.
“Like a big sister”
Charlotte’s 12 and lives in Marseille, a city in the south of France, on the Mediterranean Sea. She’s got used to having young people from other countries staying at home. Her parents take in teenage refugees, also called migrants, for a few days at a time or a few weeks.
Charlotte told WoW!:“I was happy that we took in a girl the first time because often I’m surrounded by boys in the house. I have two brothers…”
The first teenager who came to live with them was a girl called Marthe. She had come to France all the way from Guinea, on the west coast of Africa. Like many refugees, she didn’t talk about what made her leave her home alone.
She stayed with Charlotte and her family for 4 months. And now she has somewhere else to live, Marthe still comes back to visit.
“I still think of her as my sister,” Charlotte told us.
Marthe is now 20 and has a baby. Here she is visiting Charlotte this Christmas…
The world in our living room
After Marthe, 3 teenage boys have spent time with Charlotte’s family.
David* was 16 when he stayed for a week. He came from Nigeria. Unlike in Guinea, where many people speak French, Nigerians like David mostly speak English. So Charlotte and her brothers, who speak French but not English, found a way to chat with David using a language translation app.
They didn’t need many words to learn something useful from David. How to dance the galala. It’s a Nigerian dance – why not watch this video and try it yourself!
The family have also learned about far-away countries from their other guests, for example the food they eat or the games they play.
“Marthe used to cook for us. Often she made rice with hot sauce and fish,” says Charlotte, remembering Marthe’s Guinean specialities.
And Charlotte’s little brother Solal, who’s 8, was delighted to discover that other boys who came to stay already knew how to play table football with him. Yes, they have table football in Africa, too!
Our house is big enough…
Many people might not be comfortable inviting strangers to live with them, but Charlotte and Solal think it’s obvious that they should help young people who need a home.
“Our house is big,” says Solal. “I wasn’t afraid. I was mostly really interested to get to know them.”
Charlotte says that what she learned about their teenage house-guests’ journeys showed that it was important to help.
“David showed us the route he took to get here,” says Charlotte.
“He left Nigeria and went to Libya. There he got on a rubber boat, which he says was really dangerous. Some people fell into the sea and people came to rescue them. Then he travelled through Italy to reach France.”
David, Marthe and the others all ended up finding somewhere else to live after staying with Charlotte’s family. They’ve been able to go to school.
And Charlotte and Solal are already looking forward to welcoming others because they’ve had such fun having new people in the house:
“People shouldn’t be afraid of them and should definitely talk to them,” says Charlotte.
For Solal, he reckons: “It’s brilliant having people to stay because it’s fun and really nice.”
*Name changed to protect anonymity