Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: January 09, 2024

Speaking the Language of Hope

Tenin. Mamadou. Bernard. Suleyman. Their backgrounds are as diverse as their names, ages and countries where they were born. But all are united by one common purpose … to build better lives and futures in Italy, far from the conditions that drove them from their homes. With help from our Salesian missionaries, they’re laying the foundation for success.

And the cement that binds each necessary brick together … free Italian language lessons.

“Being able to communicate is essential for all human beings, but especially for migrants hoping to establish themselves in a new community,” says Father Michael Conway, director of Salesian Missions. “Getting an education, finding work, making friends, navigating public transportation—nearly everything you can think of depends on understanding the native language. And that’s why our programs for refugees and migrants revolve around teaching this important skill.”

At the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Rome, Salesian missionaries offer quarterly Italian classes for youth who have recently arrived. Volunteers from the Universal Civil Service and students from the nearby Faculty of Educational Sciences at Roma Tre University lead the classes, which are tailored according to students’ needs.

“There are different levels for the course,” explains Father Enrico Lupano, co-coordinator of the project. “We also have to address the fact that learning a new language may be difficult because some youth are not literate in their native language.”

As many as 130 students can enroll each quarter, and they are so eager to do so that demand far exceeds capacity. Many participants, like 23-year-old Mamadou from Guinea, first learn about the classes through word-of-mouth—in his case, while playing soccer with other migrants. He and his teammates all discovered additional support once they signed up.

That’s because these language classes serve as a springboard into a more comprehensive initiative to help migrants fully integrate into Italian society. Missionaries and volunteers help with résumé writing, job searches, and locating stable housing. They also help migrants navigate complicated bureaucracy, including how to apply for residency permits.

“These young people have a great desire to learn,” says Cristina, a project volunteer who grew up at the Salesian oratory in Macerata. “They know that it could be their only opportunity, and for this reason they all show great attention and kindness. Every day gives me a chance to understand their lives and their situations, and how we can make a home for them here in Italy.”

Learn more about our work in Italy.

Our mission gives refugees and migrants the tools they need to become successful, contributing members of their new communities. What’s your mission?

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