Focolare Movement

Work and accommodation

A request for help for a young man from Cameroon in Ravenna, northern Italy, sets in motion a network of solidarity and inspires solutions and opportunities for other migrants in the city. A young man from Cameroon arrives in Italy from France. He has been assured a job in the city of Ravenna, northern Italy. However, upon arrival, he discovers that the job promised to him does not exist. With no financial support, his only accommodation is a sleeping bag. At night he sleeps on the grass beside some churches. His name is Bienvenue which means welcome. Amu (Action for a United World) – an NGO inspired by the Focolare Movement and works to help peoples and individuals in difficulty, informs the local Focolare community about this person. “One day we arranged to meet Bienvenue at the train station,” Nazzareno and Vincenzo tell us, from the local Focolare community. “We told him we’d be holding a copy of the magazine Città nuova. Bienvenue recognised us immediately and there was an immediate and strong understanding between us. From everything he told us we understood that he really needed help”. After listening to Bienvenue for a long time, the two friends decided to accompany him to the public dormitory where he would get more dignified accommodation, a hot meal and access to a bathroom. With the help of some other friends over the next few days, Bienvenue managed to find several jobs, albeit short term and irregular, and was welcomed into a family home. “Nevertheless, the accommodation and work arrangements were only temporary,” Nazzareno and Vincenzo told us. ‘We stayed in contact with him in the hope that an opportunity would present itself, and met up with him periodically.” One day, Vincenzo contacted a friend of his who owns a small flat, where he himself had stayed when he first arrived in Ravenna some time ago. He took the opportunity to ask if the flat might be available for Bienvenue to rent. Vincenzo had been a good tenant and offered to act as guarantor, ensuring the rent would be paid regularly. The friend agreed. “Bienvenue was overjoyed to finally have a stable place to live”, the two friends said, “but unfortunately, after about a week, he lost his job. Putting all our trust in God, we did not lose heart”. After a few days, Vincenzo telephoned a group of friends- four brothers who owned a company in the electrical sector. ‘They immediately and generously agreed to hire our friend after a trial period.  We decided to visit him at the end of the first week, and took with us another friend we had just met, a young woman from Angola who had been living in Italy for four years and was looking for accommodation and work. Great was the emotion we all felt at this meeting that made us feel like brothers of Bienvenue and our new friend. Nazzareno and Vincenzo lived this experience with great courage which gave them the impetus to care for the people that life puts beside them and who need everything. “In the following days, we met a group of Salesian religious. The bishop had entrusted them with a parish. During the blessing of the houses by the parish priest, a tradition in the run-up to Easter, they had met several people who were non-Italian and looking for work. To be able to stay in Italy they needed to find employment otherwise their residence permits would not be extended. So we approached some entrepreneurs who were preparing to open the summer work season near the sea and needed workers the region attracts a lot of tourists. Providence was not slow in coming, and we were able to offer a job interview on the beach establishments to three people the Salesians had introduced to us. And so, day after day, we go forward with this spirit of welcome and social integration, knowing that nothing done out of love is small”.

Lorenzo Russo