Two young African migrants, who barely survived their first trips across the Mediterranean, are to join the crew of a world championship sailing team.
Elias Orjini, 26, a Christian from Ghana, and Mohamed Sabaly, 19, a Muslim from Gambia, have been selected to participate in the Vela ORC World Championship in Barcelona.
In 2011 Mr Orjini was dramatically rescued from a sinking boat in which 350 people died.
He said: “I watched all these people die. I watched husbands try to save their wives and mothers try to save their children. I said to myself that I would never have anything to do with the sea anymore.”
Mr Orjini said stepping back on a boat was difficult but that the laughter of his fellow sailors helped him to forget “the memory of screams that served as background to my first trip”.
Mr Sabaly experienced a similar crossing two years later when his boat was lost at sea for a week and the passengers ran out of supplies.
Eight people died, he said, before he was rescued.
Since their crossing the two men have been cared for by the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio.
They are participated in the sailing championship thanks to a collaboration between Sant’Egidio, the sailing club Ottovolante and the local authority governing Syracuse, Italy.
The two men, now practised sailors, can move comfortably around the deck of the Ottovolante 12-metre sailboat.
The group helping the migrants, Sant’Egidio, has more than 60,000 members dedicated to evangelisation and charity.