An initiative in Santa Croce di Magliano in southern Italy is placing emphasis on art, culture and job training as a winning combination for effective integration.
Santa Croce di Magliano is a town with 4,600 residents within there are 20 places available for receiving migrants. The larger province of Campobasso has been part of Italy's system for the protection of refugees and asylum seekers (SPRAR network) since 2016.
The project "Casa d'Amico" (Friend's House) is an integration initiative in Santa Croce that puts culture first. In February the project teamed up with the city's music school, which has been active there for the past 32 years. The collaboration brought about a percussion workshop in which both the project's guests and local residents took part.
Davide Di Rado, the project coordinator, explained that in Santa Croce, "migrants are seen as residents on par with the others, surpassing any sort of difference".
Culture at heart of work
"We're thinking about focusing more on activities for children," he said. Casa D'Amico works together with the Antonio Giordano cultural association, which has been sponsoring a street art festival with an annual prize for the past four years. "This year, one of the murals was painted by one of our beneficiaries together with other migrants who have lived here for years, thus leaving a visible sign in the town," Di Rado said.
He said children from the project will participate in next year's festival. Among the ideas that have been proposed is one to create silkscreened T-shirts to donate to local residents. "These initiatives are a sign of our willingness to support local cultural associations, in order to allow them to survive and because we are convinced that culture is the true antidote to racism," Di Rado said.
Together with this, the project provides migrants with work internship opportunities. "We've started internships with some restaurants and in a company that makes farm equipment," he said.
"The community really believes in this project," Di Rado said. "The young men have responded well because their participation has allowed them to develop contacts and also because it's a time to relax, in which they don't think about their difficulties," he said. Together with reception made up of support for basic necessities, Di Rado said cultural activities are essential. "When there's an exchange, even between people with different traditions, it's understood that we're all on the same boat," he said. "We have the same problems around work, the same difficulties. In this way, a welcoming community is created".
The project is managed by Caritas at the diocese in the town of Termoli Larino.