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Volunteering in Florence

by AIFS Study Abroad
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With co-workers at I Ragazzi di Sipario

Charles studied abroad in Florence last fall and above everything else, the most impactful experience he had was volunteering once a week at a restaurant called I Ragazzi di Sipario, a typical Italian trattoria but for the fact that the owner started it to help men and women with mental handicaps secure steady, meaningful employment. Read why Charles considered himself so lucky to have studied abroad with Richmond in Florence:

Every year, thousands of college students find themselves in the lucky position to have the opportunity to study abroad in a foreign country. I was one of those students, and for me, the choice of where to study was easy. Having studied the Italian language for many years, Italy was a simple choice for me. And after careful consideration, Florence was where I wanted my home to be, even if it was just going to be for a mere 95 days.

I truly believe that I am a part of the single best study abroad program in Florence, Italy. Having met many other students from a variety of different programs, I have yet to hear anything to convince me that there is a program that supersedes Richmond. What helped me come to this conclusion is that I was also lucky enough to participate in Richmond’s volunteer service program. Every Monday, from 9:30 until 2:00, I worked among men and women from the Autism and Downs Association of Italy at the restaurant I Ragazzi di Sipario. The experiences that I had at this restaurant surpass the experiences that I gained through weekend trips to places such as Oktoberfest in Germany; Venice, Italy; and Amsterdam, Holland. I never missed a Monday at the restaurant, and every time I went was truly a gift.

I have been working among people with physical and mental disabilities for my whole life now. This was not outside of my comfort zone, but it did try me every week. I had to rely solely on my knowledge of the Italian language every week, for no one there spoke English. To reach the full experience, I even learned Italian sign language to be able to communicate with one of the employees. With every week came a new struggle, but with every new struggle came the rewarding realization that I am fortunate enough to even be in this position at just 21 years old.

At I Ragazzi di Sipario, I made friends whom I will remember for the rest of my life. I am extremely grateful that Richmond put in so much time and effort to make this possible for me. The memories that I made during this volunteer service will stay with me forever, and I cannot express how rewarding and life-changing it truly was.

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