The Citadel Group has started its second week here in Naples, and everyone is getting settled into their volunteer placements. We are all volunteering with local non-governmental organization (NGOs). Our job as volunteers with these NGOs is to provide support in any way possible. Four of the students, including me, are providing support for the organization LESS. In the just four days I have been working with LESS, I have learned many of the ins and outs of the organization and the specific migrant program we are assisting.
I work with a group of 12 individuals, 6 of whom are a family from India. The other six are from various African nations, such as Ivory Coast, Mali, and Burkina Faso. They live in a structure, or building for asylum seekers, in Mugnano, which is a suburb in the outskirts of Naples. Mugnano is well known for its extreme poverty-stricken conditions. My job consists of assisting my local coordinator in any way possible, to work with the children in the family, and to provide a sense of normalcy in their lives.
I have had the opportunity to go out to the structure twice this week. Both days I accompanied my local coordinator. My immediate impression of Mugnano was overwhelmed by the trash in the streets. Trash and waste of every kind littered both sides of the street. Furthermore, the living conditions in large worn-down apartment buildings reminded me of a city that was still developing. Mugnano’s reputation of poverty is well deserved.
When we arrived at the structure, I noticed the difference in the level of cleanliness. The sidewalk in front of the house was swept; the stairs were swept; and everything was in proper order. I walked in and met everyone who lived there. I think they were a bit uneasy with me at first, but I have grown very friendly with them. Most of the men from Africa only speak French, except for one individual who speaks English very well. The family from India speaks English very well and helps me by translating for me with the other men in the house. Everyone in the house is so nice and friendly. They have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome whenever I show up. It is amazing how people that have left their homes can have such a positive demeanor and attitude towards a complete stranger.
Besides traveling with my local coordinator to the structure in Mugnano, I have accompanied her and one of the men from Africa to the hospital in another city, Giuliano. It was quite the experience to go out and see more of the suburbs surrounding Naples.
I was very impressed that LESS provides asylum seekers medical care along with all of the other services needed to help them assimilate in Italy. I have also attended another structure where we helped pass out pocket money. Each person in this particular program receives €2.50 a day, and they collect it once a month. This money can be spent however they please.
I’m very excited to continue work at the structure in Mugnano and continue to get to know the men and family better. I get to travel to the structure by myself now, which is a great feeling that my coordinator trusts me enough to get there and work hard. Hopefully, I’ll soon be able to start teaching the migrants more English. In the process, I might pick up some French. It has been a great week so far.
- Todd Truesdale