Monday, February 5, 2018

No Longer Living in Fear: An Autonomous Story

Dr. Marco Tavanti and the University of San Francisco students in the Academic Global Immersion AGI-Rome of January 2018. Standing outside Centro Astalli, JRS-Italy after hearing the testimony of a refugee.  

No Longer Living in Fear: An Autonomous Story
By: Imelda Guzman, MIMS

As I reflect my experience from the immersion program in Rome, I realized the challenges refugees and organizations deal with. My immersion began a week early; I had no cell phone service, which meant no maps, no translations, and no online assistance unless I was in an area of WIFI (very limited). I started in Milan and worked my way down to Rome. The biggest hardship was the language barrier. Although I do speak Spanish and it facilitated my stay, I found it extremely difficult to communicate with a vast majority of people. I found myself lost in several instances, many of which required me to ask for help. Asking for help created a sensation of vulnerability that was created voluntarily.

Even though the feelings of vulnerability were short term, I felt more connected to the stories that were shared to us during this immersion. We had the honor to listen to a woman named Suzy whose story was not like the others, she fled Cameroon because of domestic violence. Her story was very touching, she was married involuntarily at a very young age, and she lived in a nightmare. She tried to avoid all confrontation, arguments and fights by obliging with her husbands orders. The marriage blessed her with a child, a child she would have to leave behind. She found refuge with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Italy Centro Astalli, a place she now calls home.

JRS is an international catholic organization, serving refugees in over 50 countries. Its mission is to accompany, serve, and advocate refugees and forcibly displaced populations. JRS focuses its work in “education, emergency assistance, healthcare, livelihood activities and social services.” As of 2016 had given refugee assistance to over 700,00 people. As part of JRS mission they ensure that refugees are given full rights during repatriation, as per the 1951 Geneva Convention.

Suzy’s story like others is remarkable to hear. She spoke with such hope, her life in Cameroon was part of her past and she was able to grow from it. She made it clear to us that she owned her story; she was no longer living in fear and had become an autonomous person. She is now planning to start her own organization to help people like her.

Although not all stories are as remarkable as hers, the organizations we were informed about seek to provide all services necessary to facilitate their arrival.

Our last day in Rome we had the honor to visit Caritas Roma, as an non-profit organization who is focused on the peoples need, their goal is promote social empowerment, influence political, economic, and social institutions and promote solidarity. Some of the services they provide include but are not limited to listening, job counseling, legal assistance, accommodation services, social assistance and Italian school. As we may all know language is one of the largest issue persons arriving to Italy are faced with. Their efforts to assist refugees with Italian school are remarkable. Each person’s case is different and his or her Italian language program length varies. The most remarkable portion of the presentation was the location, we sat in the very classroom hundreds of refugees have sat, a place of filled with opportunities.

I am grateful for the people we met the experiences we had and an unforgettable immersion.

To learn more about the importance of education please visit the following webpage. UNHCR