Refugee project cultivates more than organic produce
These refugees have found a land of opportunity right in the backyard of the Congregation of the Mission in Rome.
Since March, they've been growing produce and flowers here as part of the Mediterranea Project, a Vincentian initiative seeking to also cultivate something intangible – integration.
FR. GIUSEPPE CARULLI
Administrator, General Curia of the Congregation of the Mission
“The most important thing is for the Church to show concrete signs of solidarity and reception. We've allowed 12 young people to feel welcome in Italy, that's the best part about this project.”
Coordinator, Mediterranea Project
“We've created a beautiful atmosphere, one of friendship and collaboration among everyone. It's a professional environment, but also one in which we've built strong bonds.”
All participants are asylum seekers who have received humanitarian protection and now hope to build their futures in the Eternal City.
What was once an uncultivated green area has become ground zero for a nascent business. While many workers had little to no experience in agriculture and low Italian proficiency, they're excited to let their potential blossom.
“I'm happy because I'm working now. I'm healthy and safe, and there are no longer any problems. I can't go back to my country, so I obviously would prefer to stay here. I work with my friends here, even though we're from different nations in Africa. We've learned so much together.”
After harvest in September, this organic output will go on sale at floriculture exhibitions and farmer's markets. Additional products, such as jams and flavored salts and sugars, will be available for order online.
Profits will be divided equally among the workers, with the hope they'll become financially autonomous.
This promise of a steady job and cultural assimilation inspires each one of these refugees, some of whom make hours-long commutes on public transportation every day.
“I pray that the project will go farther in the future, so that we can become something better in Italy. I think in the future I'll know how to do more things, which will allow me to go somewhere, to help my children.”
In this space brimming with potential, the plants and flowers aren't the only ones doing the growing.