Update from Italy

Update from Italy

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, our brother, whose family became sojourners in a time of violent unrest.

It was my privilege to spend three months as a volunteer at Mediterranean Hope’s Casa delle Culture in Scicli from March through May of this year. Not only is Scicli a beautiful and historic city, but it is home to some wonderfully welcoming people. I’m writing to share my experience with you and with my colleagues in the United Church of Christ and Global Ministries.

My goal in going to Casa delle Culture was to help in some small way the people settling in Italy and to observe the plight of migrant people. Issues related to refugees have obviously gotten attention in many parts of the world, including the United States where I live. My faith compels me to help foreigners and strangers who seek security, safety, and freedom, and my volunteer service has allowed me to interact directly with people in transition. While we have our own border and resettlement issues here in the U.S., I am grateful for the opportunity to visit Italy and share witness that U.S. Christians also have concern for what is
happening with people in need in Europe and elsewhere.

Upon arriving at Casa delle Culture, I expected to find staff members and volunteers who would be generously welcoming to migrants who arrived there. They far exceeded my expectations. I met and worked with operators (staff members) who are clearly dedicated to serving the needs of new arrivals as well as longer-term residents. There is great compassion among the staff. They not only provide for basic needs, but share joy in the celebration of birthdays, births, and other milestones of life. With every arrival and departure, there is celebration at the Casa. I saw staff members working well beyond their job responsibilities to make sure their charges were well cared for. I personally experienced their sincere friendship and came to appreciate their approach to
the challenges and difficulties they often deal with in supporting the people in need. The operators of Casa delle Culture seem to work well together as a team. They can depend on one another, and that sense of confidence is reflected in their work.

In my time there, I saw many instances of operators stepping up when a short-notice arrival of migrants, visitors, or volunteers impacted their daily work. Each time they rose to the occasion with flexibility, treating all with respect and offering great hospitality. I have observed that they are well respected in the region, which benefits the residents they serve as well as the larger community. The volunteers who serve Casa delle Culture should be lauded, too. It was a privilege to work and worship beside members of the local Methodist church who did the initial work to create the center and who remain active in the regular and special activities of the Casa. They are outstanding representatives of the Christian faith, led ably by a pastor who models total commitment.

It was also a delight to work with young adults from Germany, France, Italy, Greece, and the Netherlands who committed a month (or a year) to this project and who want to make a difference in the lives of sojourners. The operators of the center made sure that all of us volunteers were well cared for too. Even more, they offered us opportunities to travel, connect with the local community, rest, and play. The staff members included us in many aspects of the life of the Casa and its residents. For that, I’m very grateful and richer for the experience.

My personal experience there began with a meeting that sought to match my skills, interests, and abilities with the needs of the Casa. It made me feel needed and useful. In my work there, I was able to learn about the plight of migrant people and find ways to help, and it also helped me live the faith that I have learned and taught all my life. Serving as a volunteer with Mediterranean Hope allowed me to put my prayers into action.

In the three short months I was there, I made deep connections on many levels with residents, operators, volunteers, and community leaders. I’m proud to represent the United Church of Christ and Christians everywhere in supporting the ministry of Casa delle Culture. Thank you for the opportunity to serve there.

Ronald Dauphin serves with Mediterranean Hope, Italy. His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.