Saturday, January 28, 2017

A typical 24 hours in refugee help



Sometimes I feel like Alice in Wonderland, telling everyone I meet: I know our group members are better off than those who live in tents on the street and do not even have stay permits, but I REPEAT, it is not okay that they have to beg for twelve hours a day just to make ends meet, are constantly in trouble with the police, and have no security net for their lives.

Take the last 24 hours ...

I had an appointment with strangers. A couple from America who was sent to me from our friends, the bakers. They entered the apartment, panting from the stairs, and in no short order told me a. that they were not rich and had no intention of donating; b. had come to ask for my help for a senegalese man who needs work, not the other way around; and c.  that I better form an association, call the contacts they gave me or else. It was interesting. I looked into their eyes and realized that angels appear in all kinds of paint spattered clothing, and some angels come into your home and start yelling at you for no apparent reason. 

Among the directives I was given was to write a newspaper article whose deadline was that same evening. So among the hundreds of other things on the calendar I wrote an article to be published in a local English language newspaper. 

I also called a contact that ended up being the shame nasty man who works for the comune of Capannori immigration department and hates Nigerians unabashedly and for no apparent reason. 

Then I had a meeting with a man whose job involves giving away government money, five hundred euros to potential employers, in exchange for one year job contracts for people age 29 or under in a program called GiovaniS√¨. It turns out that they have as much trouble getting people jobs as we do, even though we set aside that much money as an incentive to hire any of the men from our group out of pocket. However, we gave the gentleman our idea of opening up indoor vertical farming spaces that could provide fresh produce when it would usually be out of season to the best restaurants in exchange for restaurant jobs and apprenticeships. 

Meanwhile Emmanuel called to tell me that he lost the temporary permesso I fought so hard for him to get on the train just before we are supposed to take him to exchange it for a real stay permit. He lost it on the train, so we called the train employee whose wallet he found and had me return to her with nothing missing on it. She called the conductor and the cleaning crew, but no one found his bag. We printed out a color photo of the original, which may not be acceptable when he goes for his appointment and gave it to his brother Job to bring to him, since he is still forbidden to enter inside the walls of Lucca because of another legal problem he has that we have yet to resolve. I had to admit to the train employee, Sara, that while I told her that I had found her wallet, it was really Emmanuel who had found it, but being African he was too afraid to get involved in returning a wallet so I did it for him undercover last year or so. Crazily enough, Sara and I had never erased each other from our cell phones. 

I wanted to cry. 

At least we got the heater fixed, thanks to Courtney's mom Dinah, at the house where Emmanuel and Stanley and Mamma Freedom are currently living until that situation blows up. 

I am so tired that the eyelid twitch has become a permanent facial issue for me and everyone thinks I am winking at them all the time. Some of my English classes have suffered in quality due to my exhaustion levels, but such is life. To summarize, none of the organizations designed to help refugees are doing a better job than we are as creative and nutty, private citizens.

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