gdvn 04We hold workshops at the “Mario Gheda Life-Help Center” in the Roman Castles area outside of Rome for three reasons: 1) we are called to help women (Second Chapter Call), 2) Pope Francis’ invited all of us to open our hearts to refugees, and 3) our attentive listening to the needs in the area told us of the need. Beginning in October of 2015, every Friday afternoon we meet in there, a Center of temporary shelter, where we spend time with the women who live there as they wait for their visas and for a stable, long-term housing assignment.

Many of these women are Nigerian, others are Iraqi, Turkish, Syrian, Senegalese, or Egyptian. Each is on a voyage that brings them from their home countries into a new reality. And this transition requires waiting and provokes confusion, suffering -- and even hope, and faith in a better future.

gdvn 01We use our hands as our primary means of communication, thus avoiding the obstacle of our different languages. Cornmeal, glue, and tempera paints are used creatively to make beads and jewels of different and unique shapes.

In this shared space, each woman is able to express herself and, for a little bit, interrupt their negative experiences by rediscovering curiosity and levity. Each woman brings her own life story and culture with her and we bring the simplicity of being together, listening, welcoming them without any pretense of trying to change the life of the woman.

We have watch them pass from an initial attitude of detachment to one of openness. J, who is Nigerian, was initially skeptical, and she asked about the purpose of using these materials, which were strange for her. After a few weeks, though, it was J. who took the initiative with us by telling us about brief episodes in her life -- and asking us about our lives as well.

An Iranian woman confirmed for us the importance of these brief moments we share together. Even when the other women were less involved and distracted, S. always cultivated her own creative space and then she happily would wear the jewelry that she had made. And there are other faces in our memories, and gdvn 02other stories that have marked our time there…all of which indicate that small sprouts are blossoming into life.



Carmen and Francesca

Published: March 30, 2016