Keeping in Touch

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Keeping in Touch

African immigrants extend their lives back across the Atlantic, remaining in constant contact with their families on the continent. Most are very honest about longing for home and those they left behind. The success of immigrants’ lives cannot make up entirely for what they have lost.

Africans keep in touch with their home countries in many ways. Innumerable letters and e-mails are sent back and forth everyday between Philadelphia and the African continent. But nothing can replace the human voice in its ability to conjure up images and emotions connected with home. For many immigrants, the telephone is the preferred channel of communication with home. Most immigrants call home frequently, and may even reach their relatives who are in refugee camps, awaiting resettlement. Phone cards that offer low-cost calls to African countries are available around Philadelphia, often on sale in groceries and other businesses in neighborhoods with large African populations.

Immigrants also stay in contact with their families at home by sending "remittances," or sums of money that they wire abroad using a number of different services. One Sierra Leonean described sending money home as “the African immigrant’s burden.”

Virtually all African immigrants send money home. Family members at home may depend on these sums for survival. Remittances help immigrants remain an integral part of their relatives' daily lives though separated by thousands of miles.