Community service has many meanings in AWAR...
Person-to-person relationships are how we link with the Rome community. That is why hands-on volunteerism is an important part of our association. The various types of organizations where our members volunteer represent just some of their many interests. Below are a selection of them.
Although our main purpose is personal volunteering, throughout our history we have annually also provided funds to organizations with which we have long-standing relations or have selected for a single specific need.
Christmas for Children
Christmas is a magical time for children. We try to make it so for those living in the institutions we support by organizing Christmas parties -- complete with Santa in full array. Although Santa is a relative newcomer to Italian culture, having been introduced in the 1940's, he quickly became the beloved figure known to our children.
Preparation for the parties begins months in advance when the names and ages of all the children are placed on a Giving Tree and circulated to our membership. Since choosing gifts requires understanding what each child would like, our own children often give us suggestions. We pay special attention that no child seems to receive more than another for they always look at each other's gifts. Many of them receive only the gifts we give.
A festive event should always include sweet treats so we bring homemade cookies and cakes. An edible gingerbread house topped with a colorful, candied roof is also a special enticement.
To complete the party we organize games, Christmas story-book readings, performances, music and face painting and Girl Scouts from our member-led activity group often give a hand with the entertainment. All combined we hope it makes merry and magic moments for the children.
From north to south the Italian territory is seismically active and periodically there are dramatic earthquakes. Through its community contacts AWAR seeks to respond as these two different stories tell.
On April 8, 2009, an earthquake of 6.3 magnitude on the Richter Scale caused dramatic loss of lives and devastating damage to vast areas of the region of Abruzzi and its capital city, L'Aquila. The Civil Defense branch of the Italian government worked round-the-clock to assist victims and arrange temporary facilities for tens of thousands of citizens left homeless, but there is much to be done to bring normal life back to the area.
When there are natural disasters, large sums of money flow into government programs for major reconstruction work, but experience has shown us that we can activate our contacts in order to undertake small, helpful projects which are not included in those plans. One of our members had contact with an Italian architect, which led to a meeting with the Major of L'Aquila, Massimo Cialente. He identified the need for children's playground equipment for a newly constructed housing area.
Our sister American-international clubs in Italy - Florence, Genoa, Naples, Milan, Turin - also participated in this project as well as St. James Episcopal Church in Florence. The swings, jungle gym and slides have been installed and the new playground opened.
The Friuli Earthquake
It was a far different Italy which in 1976 faced the disastrous earthquake in the economically depressed northern region of Friuli. The Italian Civil Protection Department had not yet been established but volunteer groups from many countries came to help.
Our members collected funds and searched for a local contact to identify something useful for us to contribute. A member learned from the Baptist Church in Rome that Robert Holifield of the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention had volunteers in the zone helping families that lost everything to rebuild. He described the use of the funds we gathered in these words:
By connecting in the Rome community, AWAR has been able to bring FAWCO Foundation grant development awards to the following projects...
2008 - Batsiranai Handicraft Project - presented by an AWAR member who lived in Zimbabwe
Batsiranai is a women's handicraft project that supports mothers with severely disabled children living under challenging circumstances in Harare, Zimbabwe. In addition to living with extreme poverty, these families often suffer from stigma related to local beliefs regarding the origin of disabilities. This project allows mothers to provide food and housing for their families and meet the basic educational and medical needs of their special-needs children.
2004 - Hope through Education - A Malawi Orphan Support Project presented on behalf of Rome International School, Rome
In Malawi, primary schools are tuition free but not secondary schools. No matter how bright and well qualified, teenagers (usually girls) are often forced to drop out. This program pays tuitions for hardship cases, deserving students who cannot afford fees even if they amount to very little by Western standards. All of the funds go directly to educating students and purchasing school supplies and uniforms.
2001 - Chivuna Mission Rural Health Center, Zambia - presented on behalf of Marymount International School, Rome
Chivuna Mission Health Clinic serves a community of approximately fifteen hundred people in southeast Zambia. Women walk barefoot for hours to reach the clinic, and then wait patiently in line for up to half a day to have their babies vaccinated and weighed.
Zambia is a country in which life expectancy is just 37 years, which has lost one fifth (17 million) of its population to AIDS and where 700,000 children have been orphaned by AIDS. In spite of all the damning statistics, it is a country where people tenaciously hold on to hope for a better future.