Young Caritas from Agrigento Sicily visit Salford

Twelve young volunteers from our sister organisation in the Diocese of Agrigento, Sicily spent two weeks this summer with our Caritas projects offering practical service at Cornerstone, Lalley and Cheetham centres in Manchester.  The programme included workshops on refugees and global migration as well as finding out more about the social action activity of Caritas Salford.

Agrigento is one of the most southerly points of Europe and includes the island of Lampedusa to which thousands of migrants and refugees have been making their perilous way across the Mediterranean. The young people from Sicily therefore took a great interest in the refugee work of Caritas Salford especially in the accommodation pods at Cornerstone and the education classes for refugees. Every evening Caritas teaches English to around 100 refugees and asylum seekers and the volunteers from Agrigento were welcomed by this unique community of refugees and asylum seekers who learn together, socialise and on every teaching day enjoy an evening meal together.

Many of the group from Sicily had never been out of Italy and the visit to England was a first for most of them. Back home in Sicily, they had been meeting twice a week as Young Caritas to create new volunteering opportunities to improve their knowledge of inter-cultural social issues and develop their linguistic, social and professional skills.  Partner: Caritas Diocese of Salford (UK)The project visit to Caritas Diocese of Salford was funded Il progetto è finanziato dalla Regione Siciliana e dal Dipartimento della Gioventù e del Servizio Civile Nazionale della Presidenza del Consiglio dei the Sicilian Region of the National Civil Service of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. Gli obiettivi specifici sono:The specific objectives were to:

• Facilitate the personal and professional development of each volunteer through direct experiences in the field aimed at acquiring new skills and abilities;

• Promote social innovation through the knowledge of good practices in the UK;

• Promote the participation of young people in programs for personal and community development;

• Strengthen cooperation between organizations and develop new strategic partnerships to develop innovative projects.

Accommodated at Manchester Metropolitan University in the heart of the city, the group took advantage of experiencing everything on offer from museums to food on the Curry Mile.  Highlights included a day trip to Liverpool and the famous Cavern Club where the Beatles first performed as well as an invitation to meet Bishop John Arnold at his home in Wardley Hall where, following Mass, they were treated to a tour of the 16th Century hall. The weekend saw the group in Hawkshead Youth Hostel in the Lake District and included a day at Brantwood, the home of John Ruskin overlooking Coniston Water and a boat trip on Lake Windermere.

Valerio Landri, director of Caritas Agrigento said, “We believe that the Young Caritas project will be a new stimulus for young people in Agrigento to deal with cultural diversity and foster the ability to play an important role in the life of their community. Voluntary opportunities abroad can only enrich their life experience and help each of the volunteers to use their talents in the service of others and to contribute to the creation of a better world.”

Andres Mora, Education Coordinator at Caritas commented, “It has been a pleasure to work with young people who are so committed to social action and the universal values of Caritas. This is very important work and I hope we can create more opportunities for young people to come together and learn through volunteering and experiencing different cultures”.

Mark Wiggin, Director of Caritas Diocese of Salford said, “It has been a very worthwhile visit that has had benefits for both our organisations.  I hope that young people from Caritas Agrigento  have learnt from the services we offer  here in Manchester and have appreciated the importance of ‘service’ to others as an expression of their faith and values.  As for Caritas Salford, it has been a valuable opportunity to reflect on the vitality and energy that young people bring to our work and how important it is for us to have a ‘Young Caritas’ here in the Diocese of Salford to nurture the importance of voluntary work by young people and develop that sense of service to others that the young people from Caritas Agrigento have personified so well.”