INSP Advent Calendar: day 22

Count down to Christmas with #INSPadvent! Each day in December, we have been bringing you messages from different street paper vendors.Today, we meet asylum seeker Pascal.

Donate to back INSP’s work supporting street papers and their vendors here.

Megaphon vendor Pascal Okafor Photo: Mairja Kanizaj

Pascal Okafor, Graz, Austria

Pascal was born in a little Nigerian village. His parents were farmers. Growing up he learned to help wherever he could to make a living: an ability which was of use to him later on. As a child he had a big dream: he wanted to go to school. But his parents could not afford to send him to school. Nearby there were only two private schools, which were too expensive for his family. So kept his eyes open for every possibility to earn money and created his own little businesses to make a living. He succeeded, but then something happened that forced him to leave his country. He came to Austria. Now he is an asylum seeker, hoping desperately that one day he will have a new home in Austria to feel happy and secure. He has been selling Megaphon in Graz for six years.

What is the best Christmas present you’ve ever received?

In Nigeria we had no tradition of giving Christmas presents to each other. It’s a custom I got acquainted with in Austria, when customers gave me chocolate and sometimes extra money as Christmas presents. These are my best Christmas presents.

But nevertheless even in Nigeria we go shopping at Christmas. We buy clothes – mainly shoes – for ourselves. Yes, new shoes are very much connected with Christmas in Nigeria!

How do you plan to spend Christmas this year?

I will celebrate with friends. First we will go shopping to an African shop for our Christmas meal: rice and a stew with fresh fish. On Christmas Eve I will go to church, as I used to do in Nigeria. On the 25th I meet friends – we will be about 10 people – and together we will cook and enjoy a delicious African-style Christmas meal.

Photo: Marija Kanizaj

Do you have a special Christmas message for your customers?

I cannot give presents or money to my customers. But I can send them my blessings, no matter if it’s a person who buys or someone who just passes by. I wish all the people I meet at my pitch a beautiful, blessed Christmas.

What is a traditional Christmas greeting in your language?

‘Happy Christmas!’ Despite the fact that we have our own African languages, everybody in Nigeria would express his Christmas greetings with these two words.