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The journey that refugees take from their own country is a long and difficult one. Often resulting in permanent ailments and even death. However, with the only alternative being to remain in a hostile environment and risk death on their own doorstep, the fight or flight mode sets in. You must remember that I am no expert in this area and before three months ago I knew very little of the life of refugees, but having lived among them for some time I think it is important to share what I know and understand now.
I work with forty refugees (as I may have mentioned a few times before) and every single person that has made this journey has a different story. However, they all have one thing in common… they all have a life-threatening motive for leaving their own home. I can’t imagine, no matter how hard I try, to put myself in the shoes of someone that cannot live in their own country because they find a religion that differs to that of their family, or to have a gun pointed at me because I love someone of the same sex or to be punished physically for my political opinion. These are all liberties that I have completely taken for granted in my lifetime, living as an Irish girl in the 21st century in a progressive country.
When they leave their own country, whether from Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Bangladesh or many others the normal route is to travel to Libya through the Sahara Desert. This is where the nightmare begins. Libya is attractive to those who have not visited the country because they hear words such a “jobs” and “money” but the reality is grim and full of corruption. Libya hosts many immigrant detention centres filled with people that they have arrested due to lack of personal identification documents. Within these centres people are left without medical attention, often without enough food, crammed into small living quarters and locked behind bars with a large volume of people to one bathroom facility. The “lucky” ones that make it onto a balloon-like boat that reaches international waters follow the dream of living in Europe and building a better life here.
Every day in the centre that I work in, the refugees start to become like family …slowly and shamefully it becomes easier to forget their plight. Until one day maybe you ask a certain question and their face clouds a little with the memories. “Yes, Libya is dangerous, very very dangerous…if I had known what it would be like in Libya maybe I would not have gone”, “the journey on the water was very difficult. We had to raise our legs in front of us and keep them there for 5 hours straight”, “I miss my children and my wife …. I have an 8month year old son that I have never met, but maybe one day I can give him a better life”, “In Libya we had no home, we stayed outside without shelter and slept on the ground. We were a large group and I watched a lot of people die ...from gunshots, physical beatings and starvation...”
Every time that I listen to a new story I see a different person stand before me and I know that to reach the people of Italy, the Italians must hear these stories.
Va bene… I am here in South Italy almost for 2 months, and all the time I’m trying so hard to understand the people speaking in Italian… sometimes it works, but sometimes it definitely doesn’t ahahaha. During these 2 months I understood that this part of Italy is amazing, there are so many places which are like pieces of Paradise, so many lovely coasts, bays, turquoise waters, sunsets and amazing masterpieces of the Mother Nature. But there is one small or maybe not so small problem… if you don’t have a car here, you are stuck in one place, it is almost impossible to move from one to another place. The trains are an adventure because you feel like a star in a movie from the last century and even if they are on time it is quite possible to not get to your direction alive (it is a joke… or maybe not). The trains are really slow and it would take you a year to reach the destination you want. So here in Montesano it is a challenge to socialize with the local people because most of them don’t speak English and my Italian doesn’t exist yet but it is funny sometimes when trying to have a conversation with them. The most popular phrase during the summer is “Molto caldo!” and it is like saying “hello” to someone.
But I want to tell you that if you want to have a magical holiday, Salento (Italy) is the right place! The whole region is amazing and you can find a piece of magic in every place ‘til the end of the heel where the two seas meet – Adriatic and Ionian. All you need is your summer mood, adventure spirit, some sunscreen and an Italian phrasebook!
Oh I have almost forgotten to tell you about my new friend Verde the lizard he is really small and fast. He lives in my bathroom and most of the time he tries to play hide and seek with me but I know that he loves me no matter what!
Tanya (and Verde)
I have been in the South of Italy for two months now. My project involves the integration of 40 refugees from several places in Africa into Salento society. I understood that the work would be difficult from the beginning.
First, we have an already established language barrier, where half of the refugees speak French upon arrival and half speak English, one or two even speak only their native language, but none of them arrive with a word of Italian. This language barrier is addressed almost immediately, when the refugees are enrolled in daily Italian lessons (Monday-Friday) and have a need to communicate with the workers within their base centre, some of whom only speak Italian. Then we are faced with the prejudices already bestowed against the refugees from the point of view of the Italians themselves.
In Ireland, where I come from, we experienced an influx of Polish a few short years ago during their economic problems and the view of some of the Irish was an unwelcoming one. They believed that the Polish were ‘taking their jobs’ and ‘living off the state’, but this of course, was not true. These new people were trying to build a new life of their own in Ireland because living in their own country was not an option anymore. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated that, of the 55,000 people who have reached Europe this year, 83 per cent of them went to Italy. This means that the Italians need to prepare themselves for this volume of refugees coming into their country and that in order to survive there will be an element of them searching for work or settling in homes in their smaller villages.
The important thing to remember is to be open about their arrival. It is inevitable that they will come – “The number of refugees arriving in Italy has soared this year by more than 30 percent in comparison with the same period last year, with 46,000 people arriving so far” so the next step is to be open and to appreciate the difficult journey that they have been on so far; “of every 39 refugees who survive the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, one dies, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said, adding that 1,244 refugees were known to have died so far this year.”
During my time here, I hope to learn more about their journey and about the acceptance of them amongst the people that they now call neighbours.
Ciao a tutti!
I am Tanya from Bulgaria and I am going to live in Italy for six months… my dream came true! The reason for this adventure to start was this great EVS project situated in Montesano Salentino, a small town in this beautiful part of South Italy called Salento. Now I am a volunteer in the center for refugees where Ruth and I are trying to “Breakdown the Wall” between them and the local community.
In the beginning of the project we had to attend a training course in Rome for one week, foreseen by the Erasmus Plus Programme, managed by AMESCI in cooperation with ENAIP with the support of the Italian National Agency.
So on the 18th of May our trip to this amazing city had started. There were 50 volunteers from different countries and projects in different parts of Italy. Our program had been really intensive during this week because every day we had Italian lessons for three or four hours and activities like team building, ice-breaking, self-knowledge and etc. We have learnt a lot about the way of inclusion, personal growth and the meaning and goals of EVS. We had a lot of fun in a friendly atmosphere where we were like a big Italian family. Also we had the opportunity to explore the beauty of Rome, and the best part for me was to get lost with a few friends in these small streets with amazing facades and hidden unexpected wonders. But that wasn’t everything we have learned it is much more, now we have a way better view and knowledge about different cultures, traditions and to be more understanding to each other. Meanwhile there was so much delicious food that we couldn’t resist.
Beauty, architecture, history, love, feelings… all of this is Rome but not only. At the end of this adventure we have a lot of wonderful memories, lovely friends and richer point of view about our volunteering and life.
Now Rome is part of us and we are part of Rome.
Ciao a tutti,
This is just a small introduction to myself as, for the next 6 months I will be working with SEYF on a brand-new project called:
“Breakdown the Wall”
My name is Ruth (which is a pity in Italy as no one can pronounce it. Apparently in Specchia dialect my name means “broken” and in Italian I am blessed to have a name that means “burp” ….) and I am from Ireland. I decided to participate in this project as I had reached a stage in my life where I wanted a new challenge, an opportunity to help others and the chance to experience a new culture and to meet new people. Italy is a beautiful country but I had only ever visited the North.
During the next 6 months, I will be based in Montesano – Le Salento. Montesano is a tiny town in Puglia in the “heel” of Italy and it is beautiful. The population of Montesano 3,800 and whenever I mention to anyone that I am living there, they pinch their finger and thumb together and say; “piccolo piccolo”. The streets are tiny and the roads are full of holes, but the people are friendly and the food is delicious. The buildings are old and full of pastel colours, there are plants sitting on every balcony and rusty bicycles leaning on every wall. The cobbled pathways add character to the petite town and every coffee bar is within 20 steps of each other. There is one school, a church, a post office and a bank, one supermarket and one building that sits at the edge of the town called Hotel Rendevouz.
It is here that I will spend most of my time until the end of the summer. Within the former hotel reside 40 men who have found themselves in the unfortunate position of living as refugees. My job and project is to help to integrate the 40 men into the lovely community of Montesano and show both the refugees and the Italians how beautiful it is to live united and to share a part of each other with one another. I hope to introduce new ways for Italians to understand the predicament of the refugees, for the refugees to learn about the Italian culture and traditions and ultimately to create a harmonious experience for all for as long as we live together.
Throughout my time here I will be posting regular updates to this site along with photos and results of any actions that we put in place.
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Buona Lettura a tutti ❤
Training Course Learning4all - Inclusive Settings and Strategies for Adolescents of Different AbilitiesWritten by SEYF
Learning4all - Inclusive Settings and Strategies for Adolescents of Different Abilities Training Course
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