Active Now Project
Active Now has been funded by the Grundtvig Senior Volunteering Programme. The project sees us partner with Centro per lo Sviluppo Creativo Danilo Dolci, which is based in Palermo in Italy.
In 2011 and 2012 there was a volunteer exchange programme between the two partners with, in total, 6 people aged 50+ volunteering for three weeks in the partner locality. This enabled them to raise their understanding and knowledge of volunteering and to experience living in the partner country as a local and not as a tourist.
We sent two teams of three in May 2011 and in May 2012. Each team spent three weeks in Palermo, Sicily. Prior to departure they received lessons in Italian language and culture to prepare for the experience. During their visit they volunteered four days per week at the Giardino de Madre Teresa Nursery in Palermo, where their role was to support the carers in looking after children (aged 1 to 5 years) who were mainly from the African immigrant community. There was also some time spent volunteering in preparing food in a well-established drop-in lunch centre for homeless people.
Our volunteers found both challenges and rewards from their experiences - challenges in terms of different approaches to hygiene and methods for caring for young children and the rewards in terms of the opportunity "to spend three most interesting and different weeks in Palermo - it was a great experience". One of our volunteers returned to Sicily in November 2011 to be part of VLOOM - which was a workshop to celebrate the European Year of Volunteering.
In June 2011 and June 2012 Community Action Dacorum hosted six volunteers from the Italian partner. Likewise there were two teams of three volunteers who each stayed for the three weeks. We arranged a varied programme of volunteering with Community Action Dacorum, Centre in the Park and Sunnyside Rural Trust.
Diana Spence: the tuition on Italian language and customs was most helpful. The vivid exposure to the child health care was vastly different from England, both in attitude toward children and in health and safety aspect. The children came from various migrant background, mainly African ethnicity.
I was impressed by the facilities for the homeless people. I also enjoyed the visiting ancient chapels and cathedrals with their gold mosaics. The old churches with “Sicilian Baroque” architecture and the old part of Palermo had its own atmosphere.
Anne Smith: this quotes describes her feelings about the visit, “O friends, friends if you go to Palermo, be sure to greet that beautiful city for me”
I volunteered at Giardino de Madre Teresa kindergarten four hours a day and it came to light that Health and Safety for staff and children in relation to infection was not taken seriously. As having nursing background it resulted in delivering training for the staff and providing more information on how important it is washing hands and using gloves to avoid infection from blood injury.
We introduced some playful activities to the children. I felt having nursery background would have helped with volunteering at Kindergarten. I enjoyed the Italian culture and the food. The Italian history fascinated me and the day to day buzz of life.
Cathy Harris: I was grateful for giving me the opportunity to go and volunteer abroad which I had not done in the past. I saw the other side to life how Kindergartens function in Palermo and how they accommodate children from all migrant families. Due to heart condition climbing sixty four steps meant bit of extra effort but I was pleased I managed well for three weeks and it was experience sharing the flat with three individuals.
I also enjoyed Italian culture and food. The visits to Cathedrals were amazing and eye opening.
Jackie Hicks: By volunteering abroad I have gained confidence and awareness. It has given me the insight to get involved as much as possible with charity work. I was not keen on Sicilian food which is different than Italian food however I would definitely go back. I learnt a lot about their plight with poverty.
John Birnie: The family life is important in Sicily however the most impressive cultural difference is the more widespread concern for the less fortunate in society, whatever their origin. The charity Mensa del Samaritano provides first class food and clean accommodation the homelessness people. Similarly one might think that Sicilian have taken on the mafia to solve the problems but such organisations Ubunto and Giardino Madre Teresa provide child care mainly to the children from migrant families.
The best aspect of the voluntary work was the interaction with the younger volunteers from different European countries. The most useful contribution made by me was to edit the English version of some brochures put out by various voluntary organisation.
Maria Kraithman: I think my best experience relates to the commitment I noticed amongst the staff and the volunteers at all the projects I was involved with. There was no hint of judgement that people were in a difficult predicament, just an acceptance of their humanity and the real wish to help.
I personally enjoyed working at the cafe for the homeless, Mensa del Samaritino. It was friendly environment and gave me the opportunity to work alongside other volunteers from across Europe. It was great to see the commitment from Sicilian staff and the volunteers.
To access photographs click here
For more information on this projec, please contact Musarat Inayat
Te: 01442 253935 or email here