Italy is one of the most popular countries in the world to visit and its capital of Rome is consistently ranked within the top five cities. An old city in a relatively new country, Rome provides an entrancing experience for tourists and students.
But poverty is just as real in Rome as it is in many other countries. With almost twenty percent below the poverty line in Italy, volunteering in Rome is as helpful as picking any other country. Whether you choose to work in community improvement, assist in a rest home, wok improving foreign language skills, or preserving the crumbling reminders of Rome’s great past, you will find something that will not only benefit the Romans, but change your life as well.
Photo Credit: Chantel Lucas.
Archaeology: Italians are very proud of their heritage and for the Romans in particular, there is plenty to remember. Sadly many of the ruins are either still buried or falling into disrepair. The government has given little funding over the past decade for the upkeep of historical sites. Even so, there has been a surge over the past decade of new or reinvigorated independent archaeology projects in Rome, both projects to discover and projects to conserve. Many of the projects work between 6-8 hours per day, 5 days a week.
Social Work: There are dozens of different volunteer projects in social work within the city of Rome. Some involve work at rest homes, others preserve public gardens and parks, and others still host neighborhood events and markets to add to the local economy. About one in five lives below the poverty line in Italy as well as a fifth of the country being over 65. These projects bring them help and support, help they need very much. Some of the projects look for as little as 15-20 hours per week, while others expect closer to 30-35.
Language: As the Italians work to maintain their place in the global market, they know they have to know the language that has becomes the international business standard: English. Volunteers work in some schools, but mostly with families in homestay projects to help them learn English. In a city like Rome that sees 7-10 million tourists per year (sometimes almost double for major holy events), many Romans need English to make their living from these visitors; many of the businessmen who work internationally depend on knowing English and can be given more opportunities because of increased language skills. The homestays also help children learn English at home, helping them on their school exams. Usually a language volunteer is expected to teach about 15 hours per week.
- Volunteer Support: Any program worth its salt should have a staff and support network for its volunteers. There is almost always a director or manager that you can contact with any questions or issues, if not actually on hand at all times.
- NGO/Nonprofit/Volunteer History: There is a long history of volunteers and nonprofits in Rome. There have been volunteers working in many different industries in Rome for decades. It would take a long time to list them all and for that very reason, you should take your time and look through as many as you can before deciding. With so many opportunities, why not look for one that you really want to be a part of?
Requirements & Things to Know Before You Go:
You will not need any kind of visa to go to Rome if you plan to be in the country for 90 days or less. If you want to stay longer, you will need a work visa or a study visa. A study visa is much easier to obtain than a work visa and could be fulfilled by taking Italian lessons at a language school while you are in Rome.
A basic knowledge of Italian would be very helpful, but is not absolutely necessary. Many businesses in the city center will have at least one person with a small knowledge of English. Even if you know nothing else, try to learn a handful of greetings, please/thank you, help, and I don’t understand.
How Volunteering Here Will Help Your Future:
Volunteering in Rome will change your life; it’s as simple as that. The people you will meet will treat you like family and living in Rome will change the way you see your world at home. Also learning a little Italian while there will give you a unique skill; most learn Spanish or Chinese as their second language in school and Italian stands out from all that. Plus, international volunteer work will always look good on your resume.
Questions to Ask:
What amenities are nearby? What is the public transportation like? Will I need to know any Italian for the project? How to I contact the program staff?
Health & Safety of Volunteers:
If you travel to Italy, there are no required vaccinations. It is recommended that you are up-to-date with your regular vaccines, like tetanus, and to get an influenza shot if you plan to go from November to April.
Italy is a safe country, with very little violent crime. The only crime volunteers are at risk of is pick-pocketing. Even then, pick-pocketing is mostly in city centers near tourist attractions or in bars/clubs. Pickpockets look for easy targets, so if you are aware, don’t flash your money, and keep things in secure places, they likely will not target you.
Contributed by Maria Martellaro