“When I moved to Rome I wanted to find a way to help and give back to the community.” Jenna Laleman, 20, is an American study abroad student who volunteers twice a week at the Casa Internazionale delle Donne.
Through the Community Service Program, students of all majors have the opportunity to increase their civic commitment and experience personal growth outside the classroom. The program is affiliated with different organizations such as l’ARCA, Comunità di Sant’Egidio and Istituto Leonarda Vaccari, among many others. As part of the program, students are encouraged to participate in educational lectures and workshops related to present-day social issues, often with important guest speakers from prestigious organizations such as the Italian Red Cross or the United Nations Women’s Guild.
Students can get involved with different communities in need depending on their interests, skills and schedules. Given the vast number of English-speaking students at John Cabot, the Community Service Program offers a variety of opportunities to teach English. Casa Internazionale delle Donne is one of them. “I went one time and I fell in love. I have been consistently going for over a year and it’s become very, very important to me. I adjust my schedule every semester accordingly, so that I can keep going to Casa Internazionale delle Donne,” says Communications major Kiriko Mechanicus, 21.
Giosuè Prezioso, 23, began teaching at another one of JCU’s affiliations, the Italian Center for Solidarity, in 2015. His experience with teaching clearly reflected in his volunteer work. Giosuè significantly helped the children of immigrant families better integrate into a new culture, and build their confidence in speaking a new language. He says he felt “fulfillment on a daily basis.”
International Affairs major Deanna Daugherty describes her experience at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center as “life-changing and important”. After teaching English at the Center every Friday morning, she understood she wanted to “teach English as a second language”. She says “I’m excited to go there. It’s always fun! Every time I leave, even though I hear some really difficult stories, I feel uplifted because I know that I help them somehow.”
Omar Abdel Latif, who also volunteers at the Refugee Center, got involved with community service before coming to John Cabot. “I was studying in a college in Jordan”, a country that he defines as “in the middle of fire”. Omar says that there was so much to do and that he started volunteering with Palestinian refugees in Amman through his school. “Everywhere you turned, there were people requiring help. You just couldn’t avoid helping them,” he added.
Omar’s experience in the Middle East pushed him to pursue volunteering through John Cabot University, and as a result, he has just been elected the new President of STAND. Omar is now working along with other JCU students on a project called “Dream in a Bottle”, his own documentary aimed to tell the stories of the numerous refugees who fled their countries in search for a safer life.
Volunteering through the Community Service Program is beneficial for all those involved: student volunteers give back to the community, enrich their lives and cultivate a sense of social sensibility; the associations we partner with gain much-needed additional human resources to achieve their goals; and the communities we are serving benefit in innumerable ways.
Cristina di Leva