Home is where the heart is for Rome's refugees

    ROME -- Migrants, refugees and other volunteers will be taking to the streets with brooms and rubbish bags on Wednesday (4 November), as part of a project supported by the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center (JNRC) to clean up areas used as shelter by the homeless.

    The first on the list is La Galleria della Regina Margherita, behind the Center near Via Nazionale. The entrance to this covered walkway is often used as shelter by homeless people, including migrants and refugees.  The top end near Via Napoli is currently littered with boxes, tissues, empty bottles and cigarette butts.  “It’s an ideal place to work together to do something positive for the local businesses and the Romani who live there, and for the refugees to give a message that Rome is their home too, and they care about where they live,” explains Helen Creswell, volunteer art therapist from the JNRC, who is  part of the project team.

    The “This is Our Home” project was the idea of a guest of the center who was struck by the difficult living conditions of migrants in Rome, particularly in and around Il Giardino della Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, where a lot of refugees gather during the day and sleep at night. He wanted to organize a project to show people that no matter what their situation, they can still have respect for the environment in which they live.  When the group discovered that the Giardino had already been cleared, it turned its focus to somewhere on the doorstep of the JNRC: La Galleria della Regina Margherita.

    The migrants at the Center were looking for something they could work on together that would make a difference to the community. “In the art counseling group at JNRC they have been creating expressive art for the past month making photo images and drawings which symbolize what home means for them. Being able to then go outside of the Centre and put what they have shared into practice - Afghanis, Pakistanis, African refugees all working together - is a positive step in contributing to the local community and seeking integration,” Ms Creswell explains.

    The Project has the support of the Municipio 1° Comune di Roma and  AMA will supply cleaning equipment like gloves, rubbish bags, and brooms.  Anyone else who wants to lend a hand is welcome to come along  to Galleria della Regina Margherita from 10 am. There will be a display of the refugees’ art work, interactive art activities, music, and light refreshments as the group works together to clean up the area.

    Ms Creswell says the group intends to return regularly to keep the area clean and to repeat the clean-up in other areas which have a resonance with refugees and their desire for a safe and clean place to call home.

    “All human beings, whatever race, skin colour, religion, and ethnicity they belong to, ultimately have the same basic needs. They need to have somewhere they can feel safe and secure, where they are respected, loved for who they are and are at peace, a place they can call home. Home is such a special place that we look after it so we can stay well in it and our friends who visit us can stay well in it too.”

     Event details: Wednesday, 4th November at 10am, at the Galleria Regina Margherita (which links Via Napoli and Via delle Quattro Fontane, 00184 Rome). For more information contact jnrcvolunteer@stpaulsrome.it