Visit to “Villa Sergio” in Caltanissetta

Villa Sergio is one of the communities managed by the association “Casa Rosetta” that groups together several reception projects with different target groups: therapeutic communities, housing for disabled people and unaccompanied minors, residences for people affected by HIV.
Any of these reception homes works according to its own modus operandi and is characterized by the peculiarities of the projects themselves, as well as by the professionalism and preparation of the staff, and by the beneficiaries who live there.
Villa Sergio – its name referring to the name of its first resident – is a facility that has been officially registered with the National Health Service and hosts people affected by HIV.

We have been able to visit because the referents themselves approached Borderline Sicilia, as the facility is hosting afew refugees. It is a self-managed community that expects an active involvement of its residents, who are directly responsible for managing all aspects of the house – including technical aspects, cleaning, and cooking meals.
The mission of Villa Sergio is to guarantee the independence of its residents as well as their integration into society. With the words of its representative whom we met, “the aim of this community is to bring to life a condition that would otherwise tend to fade away.”
For every patient, it is foreseen an educational project based on six goals. These follow the intention to create an opportunity to redefine one’s own identity within the context of a life that has been marked by a difficult past and by the loss of loved ones and of one’s role in society. Against this backdrop, the center’s work aims in particular at the reintegration and social participation of its residents.
Hence, there are certain internal activities that guarantee the self-management of the house (a therapeutic group in which they work on emotional alphabetization, the mediation of conflicts and groups of technical maintenance) and other activities outside the house that favour social inclusion (internships or social activities such as sports, cinema, and artistic workshops offered by associations or volunteers on the territory).
The staff is highly specialized for the needs of the target group of this community and includes a managing director, a professional educator responsible for all therapeutic aspects, social integration, and the improvement of the quality of life, another educator in charge of the technical groups, an educator responsible for the medical aspects of therapy and a nurse. The National Health Service guarantees services related to psychological assistance.
At the moment, specific services for the reception of asylum seekers are missing, such as a cultural and language mediator or legal assistance. Consequently, while the community can rely on external structures for Italian language courses, for these other services it has to count on casual and occasional collaborators and relies on the will and capacity of its staff in finding solutions.
Also the integration of eventual asylum seekers in specific communities seems to be rather “random”. Indeed, from the experience of this community it appears that the integration of asylum seekers affected by HIV occurs through the recommendation of other communities or reception centres that host these asylum seekers at their arrival. If these communities are meticulous and prepared in facing these particular situations they try to directly contact more suitable communities equipped to host these asylum seekers.

Considering the selectivity and casual character through which these so delicate conditions are managed, the following question arises: What happens if the community that initially hosts an asylum seeker does not know this network or does not care for an ad-hoc integration because of lacking knowledge, capacities and willingness?
For example, before arriving at Villa Sergio, an asylum seeker recently had to follow this procedure: When reaching Sicily after a terrible journey the woman had been hosted by a safe house for women. Once the managers of the community heard the diagnosis, they contacted Villa Sergio. As wished by the woman, they accompanied her to visit the facility and to get to know the staff and later organized her transferring with the involvement of all related institutions.
The reason why we accepted the invitation to visit Villa Sergio is that we believe that a specialized reality like this one may represent a fundamental resource, especially with regard to a reception context that is characterized by the lack of projects for the most vulnerable, and by the un-preparedness and inadequacy of public services.
Indeed, because of the way the arrival and reception of asylum seekers are managed, it often happens that eventual vulnerabilities are not recognized or, in case they are, they get neglected. We know of many cases in which vulnerable people spent all their time of permanence in overcrowded and totally inadequate national reception centres in which they actually should not have been at all considering their vulnerable condition.
Furthermore, in the context of un-preparedness, which often characterizes the system of first reception, it often happens that those in charge do not (or do not know that they should) take necessary actions for the integration into specialized projects of persons with severe physical or mental pathologies. Sometimes, it even happens that notwithstanding the willingness of those who are in charge, their actions do not have any impact or they do not receive adequate responses from the local services that appear to be even more unprepared in taking care of persons with a foreign language and culture.
In this regard, we would like to highlight on our blog the existence of a reality such as Villa Sergio and of the CICA network* that groups together all housing communities for people affected by HIV – always with the hope that the reception system improves its protection capacity for all asylum seekers and especially for those with particular vulnerabilities.

Giovanna Vaccaro
Borderline Sicilia

*C.I.C.A. – Coordinamento Italiano delle Case Alloggio per persone con HIV/AIDS – Italian Coordination of housing communities for people affected by HIV

Translation: Chiara Guccione