AIFS students in Rome volunteered with three associations this semester: an elementary school, Istituto Comprensivo Manin, a dog shelter located in Villa Borghese, Valle dei Cuccioli, and a charity, Salvamamme-Salvabebè, which takes care of underprivileged young women.
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 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.
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.
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 keeping order in the food storage.
The students, on their experience:
During my time in Rome I decided to volunteer at Valle dei Cuccioli, which is a dog shelter. I am so happy that I took part in this because it was a truly wonderful opportunity that helped improve my stay abroad. I was able to do something that I love and something that is familiar, and meet Italians and learn more about their culture. At the beginning, it made the transition from home a little easier. It then became something that I loved to do and looked forward to every week.
— Kori, University of St. Francis
Following the younger girls practice, Coach Alicia and I walked over to where the older girls basketball team was playing. We had a great conversation, practicing each other’s native language. The girls were huddled together, chatting as 14-year-old girls do, and then we began practice. Alicia introduced me to the team as her Assistant Coach. Assistant Coach! I loved my new title. The girls respond excitedly to the news and I felt a rush of excitement and happiness. As we practiced, I got to know the girls and we had a great time bonding. Alicia trusted me with leading drills, but also wanted my input from observations I had made while watching practice. Having played sports my whole life, this was a great way to put my hard work into use and enhance my experience abroad.
— Samantha, University of Maryland
One of my favorite moments was, when walking back to the class after practicing on stage, 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 am 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 so cute with their costumes! I am so glad I had the opportunity to volunteer with these kids this semester; I wouldn’t take it back for anything.
— Kaitlin, Clemson University
Working at Salvabebè – Salvamamme was the perfect opportunity to practice my Italian language skills while helping the new community I was living in. Since most people who work at the organization do not speak English, I was forced to use my Italian 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 correctly. Overall, it was a great learning experience and I am so happy that I was able to help out in the community while studying abroad in Italy.
— Haley, University of Wisconsin – Madison
This was a wonderful experience and I highly recommend it. At first, I was skeptical because the requirements mentioned the ability to converse in Italian and the commute seemed complicated. However, within minutes of interacting with the 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 Italian life I otherwise never would have seen. The transportation was easier than I expected and the relationships I built will stay with me forever.
— Domenic Matteo, University of Pittsburgh