Italy: Welcome, Woman

Diane Clark-Lamey - Scalabrinian Foundation Volunteer

On Sunday, November 6th, I was warmly greeted by Dr. Raffaella Bencivenga, a psychologist at Chaire Gynai. The peaceful green scenery and friendly welcome did justice to the project’s name, which means “Welcome, Woman” in Greek.

Chaire Gynai, founded in 2018, is a Roman organization that supports migrant women and their young children.

Comprised of 12 rooms, some designed to accommodate mothers and their young children, Chaire Gynai welcomes women migrating from countries such as Somalia, Syria, and Nigeria. These women enter the initiative after having already spent time at other organizations in Italy; thus, they already speak basic Italian and have the necessary documentation to remain in the country. These women undergo two interviews that determine their readiness to be independent since the initiative ultimately aims for them to integrate into Italian society. Chaire Gynai also creates intercultural bridges, connecting recent migrants with migrant communities already integrated in Italy.

Once the ladies are co-inhabiting the project’s cozy house, the staff and volunteers provide them with professional advice, continue teaching them Italian, and discuss their goals together. The ladies are equipped with computers, cooking, painting, and other classes. These serve as skills training, therapy, and ways to amplify their competence and knowledge of Italian culture—life skills such as how to use a washing machine. Also, properly communicating feelings such as anger is also taught. The women are to be equipped with the necessary skills to work and live independently in Rome, which usually takes about six months for single women and a year for women that come with their children.

Having undergone the 10,000 kilometers journey from El Salvador to Italy at just 23 years old, Vanessa Gamero is one of the courageous women welcomed at Chaire Gynai. In 2017, after such a long and difficult crossing, leaving everything behind for the chance of a better life across the Atlantic, Vanessa arrived in Italy. Her arduous journey didn’t immediately end once she landed on Italian soil. Vanessa recounts her first job in Italy, where she worked in slave-like conditions in a beautiful home. For a year and a half, Vanessa’s workload was excessive and exhausting, and she struggled with her new reality, unable to speak the language and far away from her loved ones and the country she left behind. Despite all this, Vanessa expresses gratitude to God for the learning experiences this job provided her.