Ismael Pouye, the Senegalese fisherman who came to Tenerife by boat and is now a federated swimmer

A few meters from the Port of Los Cristianos, where he disembarked after seven days aboard a boat, Ismael Pouye (1982) reviews a life – his – inevitably linked to the sea. From the years when he was a very young fisherman in Senegal, until the last opportunity he was given: signing for the Tenerife swim club Isora Swim Master.

The Canarian migration route changes course and surprises Fuerteventura and Lanzarote without sufficient resources

The Canarian migration route changes course and surprises Fuerteventura and Lanzarote without sufficient resources

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Ismael grew up in Saly, a coastal town in Senegal. In his family, as in many others, fishing allowed as many generations to earn a living as he can remember. For a certain time also him, who at only thirteen years old was already working in the fishing villages of his country to help the economy of a family of no more and no less than ten siblings.

His passion for the sea led him to become a great swimmer, which also allowed him to work as a lifeguard. During that time, he realized how common drowning was in his hometown, a tragedy that he wanted to remedy by creating a small school to teach the children of his community how to swim.

But a year ago all that was behind us. Ismael was forced to leave his wife, his two children and his school there and jumped into the sea aboard a boat in which he was traveling with 181 other people. The objective of all of them – most of them young people from Saly – was to look for work in Europe that they no longer found there. “If it weren’t for politics, life in Senegal would be great,” he says. And it is that, according to account, since the foreign vessels began to fish in the area, – thanks to the fishing collaboration agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Senegal – the fishing grounds were completely depleted, leaving artisanal fishing without resources fishing boats: “there are no more fish for us”, sentence.

If there is something with which he is particularly disenchanted, it is with the political class of his country: “Corruption in Senegal affects all levels. From the largest to the smallest. Anyone who has a minimum of power abuses it ”, he criticizes. These are some of the circumstances that explain why, like him, many of his compatriots leave their country in the hope of prospering.

But for Ismael, as for many others, not everything went as expected when he arrived in the Canary Islands. Although he now admits feeling very comfortable here, at first his intention was not to stay, but to move to Europe. In addition, once established in the Islands, finding work has not been as easy as he had imagined. He currently shares a flat with some colleagues and has to earn a living as a street vendor. Every day, from 10 in the morning to 6 in the afternoon, he walks the beaches of southern Tenerife trying to sell his products. His spare time in the afternoons is spent training on the beach. Without a doubt, it is for him the most anticipated moment of the day.

Swimming is precisely what has encouraged him the most in those moments in which the fact of being away from his loved ones and in an unknown land was uphill: “At first, above all, it was very difficult for me, but when I saw that there were people who swam, with whom I could share my passion, my mood changed and I began to be happier ”, he acknowledges.

A particularly hard time for him was also the loss of his brother. A short time after he did it, and at only 19 years old, one of his little brothers followed in his footsteps and left for the Canary Islands in a boat that did not suffer the same fate as his. As he has learned, the boat capsized and there were only five survivors.

Good people

However, a year later it seems that life begins to smile on him. And he admits to being overjoyed. A few weeks ago, during one of his trainings on the beach, some federated swimmers saw him training and realized that he had qualities for the open water discipline. They saw in him a good athlete and pulled the strings necessary for the Isora Swim Master Swimming Club to decide to sign him. Now Ismael is part of the team and can exercise with specific material provided by the Non-Governmental Organization for Development (ONGD) ProemAID, which will allow him to professionalize his training.

When at Atlantic Emergency, a company dedicated to training in emergencies, emergencies and security, they learned about Ismael’s story and found out that he was going to start competing, they also wanted to help him and offered to be his sponsor. In this way, he does not have to bear the expenses derived from his sporting activity: registration, travel, accommodation, equipment … When they contacted him, he did not give credit: “It is incredible, when they told me, I did not finish it. believe ”, he assures still perplexed. Now that he has made his debut as a federated swimmer, he begins to assimilate everything that happened: “I’ve been very lucky. Since I arrived I have been meeting good people along the way. I am very grateful to them ”.

In his debut on October 23, in the Crossing to Nado de Puntallana, in La Gomera, Ismael was fourth in a day marked by bad sea conditions, strong currents and the added difficulty of never having participated before in a competition of this style. And it is that, although it seems soon, he has already set his own goals in swimming. Although, yes, they have nothing to do with being champion of any crossing: “What I would like to achieve with swimming is to return to Saly one day and go back to school, improve their resources and teach children to swim so that they leave of drowning ”.

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