“I was so shocked by the gravity of the situation of the hotspot on Samos island”, said Sara Conti. “A 27-year-old guy who is dedicating his life to supporting and protecting minors’ rights not only deserves our attention but also our full support in the nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.” The news was greeted with joy and surprise by Nicolò Govoni and all the members of Still I Rise, who are working every day to guarantee informal education, security and protection to young refugees on the island of Samos, Greece, and who are committed to open the first International School for refugee minors in Turkey. "It is the greatest honour of my life so far. I have no words" said Nicolò Govoni. "It is a dream come true, a dream that I never hoped to realize. I do not know what to say. Just thank you. I thank Councillor Sara Conti and Paolo Berardi for believing in me, in us, in our Mission and in the values we fight for every day".
WHO IS NICOLÒ GOVONI
Nicolò Govoni, born in 1993, is a writer and human rights activist originally from Cremona. He began his first voluntary mission at the age of twenty when he left for a small village in India and the Dayavu Boy's Home orphanage: he spent there four years of his life, managing to change the fate of hosted children and the orphanage itself. In 2017, he published the e-book "Bianco come Dio" (As White as God) to guarantee continuity to the education fund he set up for the children of the orphanage. In the same year, he left India and then landed in the refugee camp on the island of Samos, Greece, where with a local association, he coordinated an education program for refugee children escaping the war. The year 2018 was the turning point: together with other volunteers, he founded the NGO Still I Rise and opened Mazì, the first school for refugee minors on the island. "Bianco come Dio" became an editorial case and attracted the attention of Rizzoli, who decided to include it in their editions: the proceeds from sales were devolved by the author to build a library for the Dayavu Boy's Home orphanage, launched in March 2019, and to the fund for the education of children. In June 2019 he published with Rizzoli the new book "Se fosse tuo figlio" (If he was your son): a statement against the abuses perpetrated by the Greek authorities on the refugees of the Samos hotspot. The proceeds from the book were devolved by the author for the construction of the first international school for refugee children in Turkey, where he is currently working.
STILL I RISE COMMITMENT TO REFUGEE MINORS
Still I Rise is an international non-governmental organization, founded in 2018: the goal is to offer education, safety and protection to refugee children in the hottest global migration areas. The NGO is completely independent thanks to private donations and does not receive funding from governments, the European Union nor supranational bodies. Activities began in Samos, Greece, where there is one of the worst hotspots in Europe: built by the Greek government, financed by the European Union and designed to accommodate 648 people, today it has a population of around 7,400 inhabitants. Of these, about 49% are women and children, including over 350 unaccompanied minors without adequate protection (UNHCR data updated on 25/02/2020). Since its establishment, Still I Rise has been providing informal education to thousands of vulnerable teenagers through Mazì, the island's first centre for refugee teenagers. It offers a variety of classes, daily meals, psychosocial and legal support, and protection of minors. The education program includes lessons in English, Greek, Mathematics, Art, History, Geography, Computer Science, Theatre and Music, but also European culture, women's rights, emotional intelligence. The centre is above all a safe haven, which from 8.45 am to 7 pm, from Monday to Friday, welcomes and protects about 130 minors, offering breakfast and lunch every day. Saturday is dedicated to shared free time, games, video games and cinema, from 10 am to 8.30 pm. In the evening, students are invited for dinner followed by party time. The poor conditions of the Samos camp and the constant degradation in which refugee children are forced to live led Still I Rise to file a criminal complaint in June 2019 against the management of the island's Reception and Identification Center, to condemn the human rights violations perpetrated against the unaccompanied minors living in the camp. The complaint also reached the European Parliament, with two parliamentary questions: the latter signed by Pietro Bartolo, the second by Laura Ferrara, Isabella Adinolfi, Rosa D’Amato, and by the Italian Parliament. In December 2019, the NGO promoted, together with the legal section of the Greek Council for Refugees, ASGI and the support of Doctors Without Borders, a lawsuit filed with the European Court of Human Rights to safeguard the physical and psychological integrity of five unaccompanied refugees. Pending the ruling, the Court ordered an immediate solution for the timely transfer of the five minors to a safe place, recognizing the island of Samos’ failure to comply with art. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. In line with the primary objective of offering education and protection to minors, Still I Rise is currently working to bring its support to other areas of the World and is committed to launching the First International School for Refugee Minors in Turkey, where 3.5 million Syrian and Afghan refugees are present, 70% of whom are women and children. On a global scale, the goal is to reach and recover refugee children in countries such as Kenya and Mexico, where constant violations of fundamental human rights are paired with the authorities’ failure to provide for children’s needs.