Hello to everyone, my name is Francesca,
and I have been an associate of Franciscan Sisters of the Poor for several years. I live and work in Rome, my hometown.
From 2002 to 2004 I stayed in Casetta Nova, a center for young people in Frascati where women share a time of fraternity and discernment to understand the meaning of God’s plans for them. Since I was very young I have been committed to volunteering, particularly in the educational field, with the Associations of Italian Catholic Guides and Scouts (Agesci).
Returning to Rome after this experience, I decided to apply for a job in the third sector.
And so in December 2004 I was hired by a Social Cooperative to respond to the many problems generated by social emergency in Rome. I worked in houses dedicated to mothers and their children, and also in a center for the homeless run by the City, where I am currently working. People we host here are notified by the City of Rome, through a Department responsible for all kind of social problems which arise in the metropolitan area. We can host up to 80 persons, both women and men. We can give up to 20 of them a place to stay, night and day. We have to face many different problems and situations, some of the very serious personal situations of our clients, and some caused by the absence of facilities for the poorest population groups.
As the years passed, this experience taught me that people have a right to help in cases of extreme fragility – help for something everyone could experience in his life, is a right. In addition to the communities of solidarity that arise following spontaneous awareness among members of society, political institutions have the duty to provide a system of professional integrated services that create support networks for people who need it. Too many people can’t find a place to stay -- and not just in a physical sense: they can’t find a place because they are ‘not ill enough’ in their body or mind, or not old enough, or they are stranger who is ‘not entitled’ to asylum. No one has a place for them… Fragile souls left alone with problems too big to face.
As operators in this center for homeless, we swallow these bitter pills or sometimes we are touched by the redemption of life that release some who have suffered for a long time. In my opinion, creating a system of services that gives real rights is needed to honor the human dignity in everyone. Thanks to my job, I face all the needs of our guests and stay beside them in difficulties. This is the moment in which I can play my role, as Francesca, with all my choices and complexity. Embracing another person who may be dirty, ill, drunk, or simply “different.” In this job, it is a daily challenge which, although it is not easy, I would never change with another.
Over the years I really learned to know my limits, recognize the dark side of me, and also to accept the racist side that immobilizes me -- it underlines the difference of the other persons and brings me to judge them. Racism prevents me from seeing them and their talents as the asset they are. I am learning to love everybody, and this is a difficult task that begins with respecting and accompany them on their journey as Mother Frances invites me to do.
We have a million ways to embrace another person; the poorest or the dirtiest he/she may be, but the first condition of true help is to feel that he/she is an equal, neither better nor worse. The same of you.
However, when it is morning and I see those 80 persons tiredly leave the center, in sun or in rain, bringing with them their burden of sorrows and hope, I feel a lack of words. In that moment my eyes fill with tears, the heart swells and I know that there is a lot to do yet… and all I/we can do is our little part to love and embrace everyone, so that nobodywould feel excluded! For this, only prayers remain – and these flow spontaneously and rise up to God.
Francesca Campeti, SFP Associate
Published: April 4, 2017