A group of four hundred women asylum seekers and refugees with children who reached Italy by sea or through humanitarian corridors will begin a reception and integration programme in a project by Rome's Community of Sant'Egidio.

The initiative is titled "Mother and Child Refugees: From Reception to Inclusion", and is financed by the pharmaceutical firm Merck & Co. on behalf of its Italian partner MSD. The project has currently taken in and is supporting about 50 women with children, and that number is estimated to grow to about 400 in the course of a year. 

Hospitality, education, training, and autonomy 

Daniela Pompei, migrant services director for the Community of Sant'Egidio, said during the project's presentation in Rome that it's "400 women for 400 different stories". The initiative is designed to provide initial reception services above all, including healthcare and legal assistance, clothing distribution, baby items, school kits, emergency health kits, mobile phone minutes and public transport tickets. 

Together with this, Pompei said "integration begins immediately", starting with Italian language classes conducted by Sant'Egidio, because "culture is the start of everything". The project also involves professional training courses, in particular on "domestic economics" aimed at "work in caregiving for the elderly, disabled, and children in Italian homes", Pompei said, as well as training apprenticeships in other sectors and courses in cultural mediation. "Often, women come to us who are victims of human trafficking, and they need a job in order to get off the street," Pompei said. 

Regarding minors, the programme provides educational support and insertion in the educational system. It also foresees the start of a housing autonomy project that will provide an initial rent expense contribution to help women become independent as they continue their journeys. 

Triggering self-help for integration 

The project will be carried out at a centre to be created within the San Gallicano Institute in Rome. "We entrusted it to professionals," said Nicoletta Luppi, CEO of MSD Italy, which contributed about 100,000 euros to the project. "We're happy because we know that we're investing in 400 women who in turn will invest in their families," she said, adding that this will trigger a self-help process to reach autonomy. The project has been praised by Italian institutions, including the Italian Interior Ministry. "Integration is the natural progression of sea rescues," said Interior Ministry Undersecretary Domenico Manzione. "This is the road that we want to take," he said.

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