4 October 2016
Last week, we had the pleasure of visiting the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center (JNRC) in Rome to deliver about 500 amenity bottles of body wash and shampoo. JNRC is the primary outreach ministry of St. Paul’s Within the Walls Episcopal Church, offering “radical hospitality” to 200-250 refugee guests every week—hospitality that we saw first-hand.
We were welcomed by Maiga and Lamin, who volunteer a lot of their time at JNRC. Maiga gave us a tour of the center, located in the remodeled crypt of St Paul’s Church, and told us about the work that he and the other volunteers happily donate to make the guests more comfortable and recharged—physically spiritually and mentally.
As we walked through the different recreational, dining and instructional areas of the center, Maiga explained that most of the people JNRC welcomes are men between the ages of 20 and 30. They come from many different backgrounds; the majority hail from Afghanistan, Mali and Libya, and find their journey’s end in Rome after a long and exhausting quest for asylum. Maiga told us that many asylum-seekers come to JNRC when their provisional housing term expires, after about 8-9 months.
Tensions can run high at times between the guests in the center, as the stress of the long journey can manifest in arguments. In fact, Lamin’s job is Peacekeeper, helping guests communicate better with one another to avoid misunderstandings. Maiga told us that they are expecting a seasonal surge in guests in the coming weeks, as refugees who have been working in the agricultural fields around Foggia and Campo Basso over the summer head to Rome in search of new opportunities. Distribution of toiletries, clothes and shoes each morning after breakfast has to be well organized, and guests are assigned cards that help to keep track of their collections. We at Global Soap Europe are happy to help provide some of these needed toiletries.
But the staff and volunteers at JNRC do not focus on the challenges, rather on solutions. Once they get comfortable with the day center, guests have an array of services to take advantage of, including language classes, art therapy, psychological assistance, and even yoga lessons. They can also get guidance to develop their curriculum vitae and learn essential computer skills. Developing their capacities helps them get on more stable footing to enter into the Italian work force at a higher skill level. And JNRC goes the extra mile, making sure that the refugees have the opportunity to realize their potential by assisting them to find legal, safe employment.
Our visit to the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center—named after Rev. Joel Nafuma, a Ugandan priest and refugee who took up a ministry towards refugees at St. Paul’s in the 1980s—was a short one, but we will be back. We plan to make regular deliveries of liquid soap, body wash, shampoo, and any other personal hygiene items that Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese wish to donate. If the hospitality we received from Maiga and Lamin is what the guests receive daily at JNRC, we are sure that the center will continue to touch many lives with hope!
You can read media stories about the guests and volunteers of JNRC here.
If you would like to volunteer or donate to JNRC, click here.
Get involved or donate to Global Soap Europe’s mission here!