Scenes and stories from a small town in the hills of Italy's Le Marche region
From Nigeria to Italy
Woman Seeks to Help Other Immigrants

July 2006

CAMERANO, Italy -- Theresa Okwuike moved to Camerano, from Nigeria six years ago and now owns a call center on the piazza, the main square.

Okwuike grew up in Aba, Nigeria, with her parents. She did not grow up poor and hungry in the way many people from Africa are portrayed on television. Instead, she says she was happy with her economic situation but decided if she wanted to further her education she would have to move and so in 1993 she went to Italy.

A sister who was living in Perugia helped her get the documents she needed. But once in Italy, she realized that her educational certificates from Nigeria were not recognized, and she would have to start over.

Staying Connected....
Camerano is characterized by friendships and lasting relationships. With countless places to walk, talk and meet in Camerano, many people choose to spend their time at the outdoor kiosk. Here residents can enjoy an espresso or cold beverage while closing their day in unity and relaxation.

Piazza Roma in the evening. Soon the square will fill with the residents of Camerano. Photo by Keaton Williams

Discouraged, she moved to Padova, and finally to Camerano, where she married and had her two children, in 2001 and 2004.
She asked Town Hall how many immigrants lived in Camerano.

After discovering it was more than 100, she thought she would fit in and that opening a call center would help others like her. In February 2006, she opened the business with her husband Cletus. But along the way, she became disillusioned.

In the larger cities where Okwuike had lived, there was a higher concentration of immigrants than in the small town of Camerano most of whose population was born in Italy.

“Perugia is used to foreigners. Padova also has a lot of foreigners, but Camerano is a small city and when they pass you by they look at you and want to know, ‘Who is this?’ ‘Where are you staying?’ ‘Why did you come here?’ ‘What are you doing?’ I don’t understand,” said Okwuike.

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Every Wednesday a traveling market comes to Camerano. Unidentified women picks through t-shirts. Photo by Keaton Williams.

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