As a student who is far past the halfway point in the semester, I found it extremely difficult to find a community service program that would allow me to participate and volunteer my time to give back to the community. I was hoping and inquired with both my school and some youth groups about possibly working with Italian children coaching a youth soccer league. Unfortunately, most of these leagues are either over for the season or winding down with their final games. I also inquired with International Studies Institute about possibly working with younger students teaching English, but was told there wasn’t an opportunity through the school. I was however told about a fantastic opportunity to interact and benefit with special needs individuals at “I Ragazzi di Sipario.” This is a restaurant the employs the work of those struggling with mental disabilities.
I Ragazzi di Sipario strives to benefit the community by bringing those who are unable to integrate into society, and gives them a sense of purpose. I was overcome with emotion as I discovered this restaurant from my peers at ISI. Although there wasn’t the ability to actually work and volunteer at this restaurant, I was able to go, enjoy a nice dinner and interact with the individuals employed at I Ragazzi di Sipario. From simply observing these individuals while they served my table, I could tell they were overcome with both satisfaction and appreciation. They were grateful with my visit, because it allows them to feel as though they truly belong in the society in which they were born.
While in America, throughout my high school career, I had continuously volunteered within my community. For about two years I had volunteered to tutor 3rd graders at my old elementary school. This was so rewarding to be because these students struggled with English because their parents were not from this country. I felt as though I was opening up the world and giving them a chance to become integrated. This is the same feeling I felt at I Ragazzi di Sipario when I saw the smiles on the employees faces.
It is so important to volunteer and get involved, not only at home but abroad, because it allows you to give back to the society that has so graciously allowed you to stay there. We are now part of a global community and we are not owed anything to the countries we study in, we must do what we can to give back. From this experience I learned that everybody deserves a chance, and I look forward to getting involved again back at Quinnipiac. I believe this has changed how I view my experience in Florence. It has done so because I now feel as though I am fully integrated into this society. I feel less of an outsider, but someone who knows that Italy is not just here for me to study and have fun. There are real people with real struggles here as well, and while I live here I need to do what I can to help.
“Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I believe this quote applies very well to this photo of the employees at I Ragazzi di Sipario. This photo, that is on the homepage of the website for the restaurant, exemplifies the meaning of inclusion. Everybody can be great because everybody can get involved, work and participate in their community. I believe Mr. King would not argue with that notion. I am fully grateful to have been a part of I Ragazzi di Sipario and I have again been instilled with a great deal of respect for Italians and the country as a whole.