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ITALY: Siamo Umani project helping young refugees use their skills and talents to start small businesses


(MissionNewswire) The Siamo Umani (We are human) project is carried out by the Salesian Social Cooperative within the Sacred Heart Youth Center in Rome, located next to Termini Station and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart founded by Don Bosco himself. The project helps young refugees and Italians find job placements and was recently selected as an inclusion model at the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva.

Siamo Umani was founded in 2014 by two young married couples, Cristina and Giuseppe and Francesco and Antonella, with the help of Salesian missionaries. Their goal was to connect young refugees seeking services at the Sacred Heart Youth Center to job placements and fulfill the needs of community residents like the elderly. The goal was to bridge a gap between those new to the country and residents who might be able to help refugees acclimate easier.

The project has been successful to date. Its initiatives have grown and diversified and now include assistance for those wishing to start their own small businesses by creating and selling gadgets and homemade crafts.

For example, Soheila from Iran and Amira from Somali have put their artistic talents to good use in the creation of bonbonniere and gadgets for events and anniversaries. Viviane, originally from the Ivory Coast, provides light assistance to the elderly in the center of Rome. Mirvat, a passionate photographer from Syria, curates a blog and aspires to become an influencer on social networks to transmit a message of integration to young people. Finally, Morteza, a young man who arrived in Italy from Afghanistan, is a video maker who is hired by various local groups.

“Projects like this are essential to help young refugees make their way in their new country of residence,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesians know the local marketplace and are able to create job placement programs to help youth and those in need to connect through training and internships to highly employable job sectors as well as help them start their own businesses, which helps their families and communities.”

In Italy, young people who are unemployed and not in school or training programs represent 20 percent of the population. Vocational training is an educational path that serves as a highly effective bridge between work and school.

Salesian programs across Italy help youth who are unable to attend school and others who drop out to work at the few jobs available to them. A growing number of children work as laborers on farms and others have turned to the sex trade to help support their families. Those in poverty often live without adequate shelter, hot water, regular meals and health care.

Italy, Europe’s third-largest economy, has close to 2 million children living in poverty, according to UNICEF. The poverty rate has risen in the wake of Europe’s economic crisis. Unemployment is at its highest level since the late 1970s with the overall jobless rate at 12.5 percent and youth unemployment as high as 41 percent.

According to UNICEF, a growing number of youth are living away from their families in temporary shelters and within government and charity programs because of inadequate support from or neglect by their families. Salesian programs work to combat these challenges by providing shelter, nutrition, education and workforce development services for youth in need.



ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS)

ANS – Italy – “We are Human”, a model of inclusion in courtyard of Rome’s Sacred Heart

Salesian Missions – Italy

UNICEF – Italy Poverty

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