Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Feeding the Hungry From Italy to New York

RomAltruista, our affiliate in Rome, works tirelessly to help disadvantaged populations find food, shelter, education and jobs. Founded in 2011, it’s had success with “flexible volunteering,” whereby volunteers can browse the organization’s website for projects by theme: animals, environment, elderly, disabled, etc., and sign up for dates by clicking on the online calendar. Schedules are confirmed by email.

In Italy, some of the most vulnerable groups served by RomAltruista are immigrants and refugees. According to a story on BBC posted in July, “more than 500,000 migrants have passed through Italian ports since 2014, and numbers are on the rise again. … Italy is the main destination for migrants attempting to reach Europe by sea, due to its proximity to Libya. According to the United Nations, 83,650 people have reached Italy by sea since the beginning of the year – a 20 percent increase on the same period in 2016.”

...To reach out further to immigrants, RomAltruista launched a new project: Welcome Dinners. “We aim to break the barriers between new arrivals and people who live in Rome,” said Mauro. “At each dinner, there are four locals, four newcomers and one facilitator, and every participant brings food – like a potluck. It helps foreigners and locals get to know each other and counteract bad press – immigrants only seem to appear in the news when there is a crime or something like that. We want people to get to get the direct experience of the immigrants so they can realize they are just normal people.”

Once again, social media generates positive visibility. Participants at Welcome Dinners are asked afterward to post a few words describing their experience on Facebook. Words posted so far include: “warm,” “sharing,” “brotherhood,” “pleasant,” “friendship” and “harmony.”

In New York, donations to food pantries now include fresh, locally grown vegetables, thanks to the efforts of Volunteer New York! The organization, which coordinates a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, has partnered with an energetic gardener, Amy Benerose, who created Our New Way Garden as a way to grow organic produce to serve urban areas that otherwise rely on canned and boxed foods.

..“Last year, we grew about 20,000 pounds of vegetables and distributed most of them to local food pantries. The quality is really good because it’s grown locally,” said Amy.

The harvest includes corn, eggplant, squash, peppers, melons, pumpkins, lettuce and more, along with herbs and garlic. In addition, Our New Way Garden is raising fruit trees and hopes to build a greenhouse for future year-round crops.

--Excerpted from Points of Light Foundation

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