COVID-19: Roma among the most forgotten populations, without food and health care

A project to bring food aid to children from 0 to 3 years old. An interview to Carlo Stasolla, president of the "Associazione 21 luglio"

With the lockdown and the stop to the mobility, the needs related to the lack of food and economic sustenance from informal work have risen. This has put a large band of people living in the camps in difficulty, especially children. The "Associazione 21 luglio", for years engaged in assisting Roma and Sinti populations, also with the support of the Migrantes Foundation of the CEI, has therefore launched a project to distribute "baby-packages" to about 250 children per week in the city camps of Rome.

"The message and the request for help - explained in an interview to Vatican News Carlo Stasolla, president of the Association - privileges the dimension of food deprivation of 0/3 year old children and not ethnicity, according to a principle of our association. However, we highlight the fact that these are children who live in slums. We go with our volunteers to collect the goods purchased directly from the donor families once a week. We try to ensure that the donor families keep their commitment to two months. The goods are stored in the "Polo Ex Fienile" social center that we manage in a suburban district of Rome, Tor Bella Monaca. There the packages are packed once a week on Saturday mornings outdoors in the garden of the social center by a group of well-spaced volunteers (divided into five groups, one for each type of pack-baby), in order to give maximum visibility to the preparation of parcels. Through short videos, messages, drawings, we began to encourage contacts and exchanges at a distance between mothers who donate, mothers who receive, mothers who pack parcels, with very strong effects that create a feeling of common belonging, not taken for granted and that it must be organized to be able to unfold".

In addition, Stasolla continued: "We have created whatsapp groups through which we keep in touch with mothers to give advice, listen to the inconveniences, give relief in the hardest moments, send activities to be carried out with their children during the hours spent at home. We have activated a service that allows to listen to tales in Italian and in Romani (Romani chib): “Tales on the phone.” In each pack-baby we also put a flyer of Tales on the phone in order to signal the importance of the game and the fantasy even in this confinement phase, and the presence of relationship opportunities beyond material help. We have made available to the children in the slums some internet access so that they can connect with the platforms designed by the schools. Thanks to their mobile phones we support children during study hours. We reinforced the pressure, advocacy and plaidoier aspects with appeals to the institutions to come urgent measures aimed at protecting the right to health and school continuity are activated".

14 May 2020