The Vericon Charity Auction is an annual event wherein a series of wacky and exciting items are auctioned off to raise money for charity. This year Vericon is delighted to introduce our new beneficiary charity: Cittadini del Mondo, i.e. Citizens of the World.
Cittadini del Mondo (pronounced Chee-tah-dee-nee dell Mahn-dow) is a tiny volunteer charity in the city of Rome with a permanent staff of only seven people, which takes care of the “Selam Palace” a once-abandoned tenement building in Rome which is now home to (believe it or not) a population of more than 8,000 refugees from dozens of different countries, with more coming and going constantly.
The refugee problem in Italy is complex, and receives almost no international attention or support. It’s a new crisis: more than 40,000 refugees have streamed into Italy in the past four years, fleeing violence in Africa and the Middle East. Many are younger men who fled regions where armed militias were executing any fit male of fighting age who refused to join them, and others are women who fled forced marriages under oppressive regimes.
Unfortunately, when these refugees reach Italy they (paradoxically) become ineligible for refugee status and the international aid many countries extend to refugees. Why? Because Italy itself is not involved in conflict, so they are not in active danger there, and refuge aid is almost all reserved for people who are actually still in war-torn regions. Once these people run from their native countries, it becomes infinitely harder to apply for permanent asylum or the many kinds of educational and job-training help normally offered to refugees. This problem is enhanced by the fact that many of these people did not come directly from their home nations but were slowed by complicated dangers on the journey.
Reforms are underway but slow in coming, and what aid programs are available now require refugees to navigate elaborate labyrinths of paperwork in unfamiliar languages, and endure months of waiting before benefits begin. To make matters worse, Italy’s own struggling economy and sense of crisis has reduced internal government aid for all charitable programs, and created a hostile and frequently xenophobic atmosphere among native Italians, many of whom treat these refugees as invaders.
The tiny Cittadini del Mondo team takes care of 8,000 permanent residents and a constant flux of new arrivals, speaking many dozens of languages. Doctor Donatella D’Angelo, clinician Arcangelo Patriarca and medical students Emiliano Guerra and Livia Maria Salvatori run a clinic providing medical and hygiene needs and especially prenatal care. Accountant Mario Vannini and international affairs student Milena Molozzu offer legal and administrative help, coaching refugees through applying for what asylum, aid and jobs they are eligible for, an indispensable task since new arrivals face a labyrinth of bureaucracy in unfamiliar languages. In addition, they organize Italian language classes and job training courses, including special courses designed for refugee women who are often too timid to be comfortable in mixed gender classes. Their library collects literature in refugees’ native languages, striving to provide some lifelines of culture for people living in exile, who have been completely cut off from their native societies.
Vericon’s donation will mean not just increased funds for Cittadini del Mondo, but also hope for real expansion of their efforts, and recognition of the value of their efforts, which is already making their hard days’ work a little easier. The auction committee is very excited to be working with Cittadini del Mondo this year!
In addition to donating auction items, giving direct donations as Veribux, and coming to Vericon prepared to get excited and bid, there is one new and important face of this year’s auction which all of you (regardless of budget) can participate in. Since we are Cittadini del Mondo’s first American donors, we hope that our activities (especially if we can get them covered by local papers and blogs) will make other people aware of Italy’s refugee crisis and help bring them more attention, and, ideally, other future donors. This really is a case where, especially if we can make others aware of Cittadini del Mondo, we have the potential to give a substantial and permanent boost to their amazing work beyond the money. For that reason it is important this year, in a completely new way, to talk to people about the auction as much as possible: approach your families, your co-workers, your classmates, your employers (who are often looking for worthy causes), shops you frequent (which often have old unsold goods to donate) and tell them about this. Soon the auction committee will prepare some fliers you can print and post or distribute, and please do so: forward charity auction emails, post the fliers on bulletin boards, share the auction page on facebook and twitter–every person who reads about this and learns from us about the refugee problem is a valuable achievement every bit as much as raising $10. We will send out more materials in time, but if you what to know ways you can do more to let people know about the auction contact the committee anytime.
Letter Writing Campaign
In addition, in the immediate short-term, Ada Palmer is still corresponding with Cittadini del Mondo about our preparations. If any of you would like to help boost their spirits, please send Ada a sentence or two of encouraging words to send on to them; she will collect them all and send it to them in a batch, and it will mean the world to them!
You can learn more about Cittadini del Mondo here. (Original site in Italian, but Google Translate does a passable job translating.)