Study Abroad in Rome: Volunteer Programs
Feedback from Spring 2012 volunteers
AIFS students in Rome volunteered with three associations this semester. The first one was an elementary school named Istituto Comprensivo Manin. The second association is Valle dei Cuccioli, a dog shelter located inside one of the biggest parks of Rome, Villa Borghese. The third one is a charity association called Salvamamme-Salvabebè, which takes care of underprivileged young women who are pregnant or have babies and cannot afford to maintain them. The association has two main facilities, one located in Monteverde Area, not far from Trastevere, where staff collects donations from people, and the other one located in the Villaggio Olimpico area, close to the Olympic Stadium, north of Rome, where staff meets the young mothers and distributes food for the babies.
The students, depending on the field they were working at, were asked to do the following:
Richmond volunteers at the elementary school assisted the school’s staff in two different fields. One was an in-class activity, working with the teachers during their regular classes. The volunteering consisted of having conversation with the children, preparing lessons and brief activities focused on the improvement of the language skills, and interacting with the children while using English. The other field was an after-school activity, assisting the after-school program’s staff on their daily activities, which vary from day to day, including sport activities (training the school’s basketball team) or English language classes involving kids 7 to 14 years old.
Richmond volunteers at Valle dei Cuccioli assisted the staff in their daily activities, such as feeding animals, cleaning cages, and dealing with daily care of hosted dogs.
Richmond volunteers at Salvamamme-Salvabebè helped the staff in two different ways in the two facilities: volunteers in the Monteverde office were in charge of collecting clothes and toys offered by people, separating them by size and style, and helping the staff in their daily routine, while volunteers in the Villagio Olimpico office helped the staff in welcoming and meeting young mothers who walked in for help and distributing food for their children, and also keeping order in the food storage.
AIFS in Rome Spring 2012 volunteers
“During my stay abroad I decided to volunteer at Valle dei Cuccioli, which is a dog shelter in Rome. I am so happy that I decided to take part in this because it truly was a wonderful opportunity. (…) I really do think that this has helped improve my stay abroad. It gave me the opportunity to do something that I love and something that is familiar to me and meet Italians and learn more about the culture. At the beginning it was nice having this since it was familiar. It made the transition from home to here a little easier. It then became something that I looked forward to every week and loved to do. I am so thankful that AIFS was able to give me this amazing opportunity! Being able to volunteer with the dogs really enhanced my study abroad experience in many different ways!”
— Kori Beck, University of St. Francis; Valle dei Cuccioli
“One of my favorite moments was when we were walking back to the classroom from practicing on stage and two of the girls ran up to me and held my hands the whole way back. I love working with kids and this class was just what I needed this semester! I’m pretty sad that I won’t get to see their final performance but on the last day I got to see them in a dress rehearsal. They looked really cute with their costumes. I am so glad I had the opportunity to volunteer with these kids this semester and I wouldn’t take it back for anything!”
— Kaitlin Flack, Clemson University; Elementary School
“Working at Salvabebč – Salvamamme was the perfect opportunity for me to practice my Italian language skills while helping the new community I was living in. (…)Since most people who work and dedicate their time at Salvabebč – Salvamamme do not speak English I was forced to use my Italian language skills to communicate. At first it seemed very difficult, but as time progressed I became more comfortable in my environment and was able to communicate and understand what people around me were saying. I also used my Italian skills when reading clothing labels and toy labels to make sure they were organized in the right bins. Overall, this opportunity was a great learning experience and I am very happy that I was able to help out in the community in some form while studying abroad in Italy.”
— Haley Goldsmith, University of Wisconsin - Madison; Salvamamme
“This was a wonderful experience and I highly recommend it. At first, I was skeptical of the situation, because the requirements mentioned the ability to converse in Italian and the commute seemed complicated. However, within minutes of interacting with the administration behind the volunteering program, I knew I had made the right decision. The group of women in charge were young, friendly, and communication was never an issue. Through this experience I was able to see a side of Roman culture I, otherwise, never would have without this opportunity. The transportation was easier than I expected and the relationships I built will stay with me forever. Their schedule was flexible, the office was in a nice location, and the work environment was very relaxed. It was unforgettable and if I had the chance to do it again, I would.”
— Domenic Matteo, University of Pittsburgh; Salvamamme
“Following the bambini practice, coach Alicia and I walk over to where the U-14 girls basketball team will be playing. We have a great conversation while practicing each other’s native languages. The girls are huddling together chatting, as 14-year-old girls do, and then we begin practice. Alicia introduces me to the team as her assistant coach. Assistant coach! I love my new title. The girls respond excitedly to the news and I feel a rush of excitement and happiness come through me. As we go through practice, I’m getting to know the girls and we’re having a great time bonding. Alicia has trusted me with not only leading drills, but also with putting in my input from observations I’ve made while watching practice. Having played sports my whole life, this is a great way to put my hard work into use. We have a great practice and the girls come over and make sure to say goodbye before they go, each one having a huge smile on their face.”
— Samantha Medney, University of Maryland, College Park; Elementary school, after school program