COMING to Ireland was the realisation of a childhood dream for Austin Alagba, aged 48, who grew up in Nigeria, but has spent the last 18 years in Cork with his wife Caroline.
“When I was a little boy, the first white man I ever saw was the village reverend, he used to visit the families and he came to our house to say hello and I was out playing with my siblings.
“I said to him ‘how come you look different?’, he laughed and said that is how we were created by God, we are all different.
“I was maybe eight or nine at the time and I asked him to take out his right shoe so I could count his toes.
“And he did and then I asked him to take off his left shoe so I could check that one too and he did.
“Then I asked him ‘where are you from?’ and he told me he was from Ireland. Ever since then I wanted to come to Ireland. When I grew up, I fulfilled my dream.”
Originally, Austin and Caroline arrived to Dublin but then moved to Cork after visiting here.
“I chose Cork because of the atmosphere, it has a good atmosphere.
“I feel like I have a lot of freedom here.
“I have been here 18 years and I have never had any harassment, I feel safe.
“In Nigeria, you are worried about your safety a lot.”
Austin said he has nothing bad to say about Cork.
“There is a lot of rain here, but I like everything about Cork, even the rain.”
Austin and Caroline have four children together, Chika, 17; Jordan, 16; Lulu, 14, and Dordia, nine.
He has completed a four-year degree in political science at UCC.
“I found it fun, it was nice.
“UCC has a good atmosphere.
“Studying at UCC was a very big deal for me, I always wanted to get a degree and UCC is a great school. I am very proud to have studied there.”
Austin said he often takes his children there to walk the grounds and take in the sights.
He works with New Communities Partnership (NCP) where he helps to integrate migrants into society here in Cork.
“I help migrants and asylum seekers that come to Cork.
“I work with people who have been staying in a direct provision centre, have been granted leave to remain and don’t know how to mix with society.
“I introduce them to society. Help them file for citizenship, help them find work and bridge the gap between migrants and organisations such as Tusla.”
Austin also helps out with the Cork Volunteer Centre and is involved in the organisation of Africa Day Cork, celebrating African culture and diversity on Leeside.
In his spare time, he enjoys working out at the gym, jogging and reading books on politics.
“I like to read books on Irish, European and International politics.”
The Nigerian also enjoys travelling and experiencing new cultures and has a soft spot for the St Patrick’s Day parade.
“I love the St Paddy’s Day parade, it is a great day. I was disappointed that it was cancelled because of the coronavirus.”
Austin said his four children are very anxious about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“My kids are afraid of the virus.
“They learn all about it in school all they talk about is washing their hands all the time.”
On Cork’s people and culture, Austin doesn’t think there is one defining trait that sets them apart but said he had been lucky to meet good people during his time here.
“Cork people are good and bad, the same as other people, it just depends on who you meet.”
He said said Leeside was the perfect place to raise a family.
“Cork is a nice safe place to live and raise children. I want to stay here while my children are still young.
“I need to give them fatherly love, but when they grow up I am free to go. I want to travel and see the world. I have spent 18 years here in Cork, that is a long time.
“It is a pleasure to live here, this is a good city. It is easy to raise responsible children here.”
Reflecting on his home country of Nigeria, he adds:
“I don’t miss home, I have papers and I can travel wherever I like. I go home about once or twice a year, for Christmas or Easter. I go around visiting everyone and catching up on things.”