Refugee minors: The fortunate island of Mazzarino

Sports and schools are a prime of examples for integration.

(Meridionews – Concetta Purrazza) The „I Girasoli“-organisation in the centre of Nisseno is a flagship project for unaccompanied minor refugees. Spending time with classmates beyond what is required in the classroom contributes to a successful reception. In the next project, the refugees become English teachers for their classmates. The opportunity to build a future works through the school desk and sport.
This is also what the person in charge of the organisation for minor unaccompanied refugees believes. After they experienced violence and risked everything to reach Europe, they found security in the community of Nisseno.“We live in a new family at a place where we can start to raise hope concerning our future”, this is what some of the adolescents told us.

Eight years ago, when the organisation was founded, it took responsibility for adolescents aged 16-18 mainly from Asia and Africa. “The period of time spent in the project is different for everybody” explained Michele Liuzzo, one of the coordinators. Some of them are just a couple of months in the institution, others such as Robert, who just turned 18 years and who attends the commercial school in Mazzarino has the dream to work in finance- and the economic sector. At the ‘Girasoli’ integration of the minor unaccompanied refugees into the local social network works through schools and athletic activity. The classroom community becomes a prime example to develop a relationship with Italian adolescents of the same age and to familiarise with the region. Robert and Mohamed talk about their difficulties to discuss Italian literature and to develop friendships with their classmates.” To read and understand the Divine Comedy is very difficult. Fortunately we get support in the afternoon class. We have many friends among the classmates which we also meet after school.” Cettina Nicosiano, the coordinator of the project for minors, supports the adolescents with their educational integration and remembers the experience with Noufou, which became -after he attended the commercial high school “E. Maiorana” at the piazza Armerina- a qualified tourist guide. Today he works as a cultural mediator; however he is still in touch with his former classmates.

Sports are a different way to achieve integration. The adolescents take part in football tournaments and do their work out at the gym. On the football field they learn to respect each other. “There aren’t any different nationalities if we play football with the boys from Mazzarino on the football field”. They progress with their friendships also outside the gym. These are initiatives which help the boys to feel as citizens. “Soon will start a project with the local schools which will involve English lessons at the schools”, reveals the coordinator. It will be a mutual exchange: the residents of the SPRAR* will feel as part of the community in which they live, while the students will get to know them better and learn English.“ The purpose of the “Girasoli” is to form citizens, in a world in which the curiousness to get in touch with different cultures is contaminated by fear, comments Nicosiano. “To support them is nothing special”. The kids we have in other projects are highly motivated to complete their task.

*SPRAR – Sistema di protezione per rifugiati e richiedenti asilo: protection facilities for asylum seekers and refugees

Translation: Jan-Carl Janssen