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ITALY: Young migrants learn new language

Salesian Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Rome

Salesian Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish offers courses for migrants


(MissionNewswire) The Salesian Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Rome has been working with migrants and refugees, and it recently started language classes to help these youth acclimate into their new communities in Italy. The class holds 130 people in each quarterly cycle. The demand far exceeds the capacity.

The course is free of charge and is run by volunteers, including youth from the Universal Civil Service and university students from the nearby faculty of educational sciences at Roma Tre University. Salesians, members of the Salesian family and members of other spiritual families also support the efforts.

“There are different levels for the course, based on need,” explained Father Enrico Lupano, a coordinator of the project. “We also have to address that learning a new language may be difficult because some youth are not literate in their home language.”

The youth who attend represent a cross-section of nationalities. In the current course cycle, Tenin is the top student and only girl in the class. Mamadou, age 23 and from Guinea Conakry, learned about these courses by playing soccer with a volunteer. Bernard, age 25 and from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been attending the course for a month. He hopes that in a short time he will be able to find a job to support himself.

Suleyman arrived from Gambia three months ago and has a story like many others. When asked how he arrived in Italy, he quickly mentions his crossing in North Africa, the many who remained in Tunisia and the boat trip. He said, “It’s a long story and if I tell it to you, then I’ll end up crying.”

The course is a springboard to help youth gain an education and prepare for the workforce. They receive help in writing a resume, the search for work and a home. They are able to take driving lessons so they have greater mobility. Beyond that, Salesians offer help with navigating bureaucracy, such as challenges with residence permits.

“These young people have a great desire to learn,” explained Cristina, a young woman who grew up at the Salesian oratory in Macerata and is now a volunteer for the project. “They know that it could be their only opportunity and for this reason they all show great attention and kindness.”

Cristina hopes that her volunteer position will lead to employment helping migrants and refugees. She loves the work and learning about their experience. She added, “It is giving me many tools to learn more about their lives, their stories and how we can really make a home for them. It’s not just Italian or the service you do for them. Every day gives you an extra chance to understand their lives and their situation here in Rome and in Italy, amid daily difficulties and challenges.”

In addition to helping migrants and refugees, 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.



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