Streicker Snapshot: Chiara Ficarelli '19 in Rome, Italy and Jerusalem, Israel

Sept. 7, 2017

Before starting my Streicker Fellowship in Rome with the Community of San’Egidio, I spent five weeks on a summer journalism course reporting on the refugee situation in Greece. Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways from my time in Greece was learning how to adapt to the always-changing situation on the ground.

A couple days after the end of my course, I was on a train to Rome, watching the rolling Tuscan hills speed by, when Claudio, my soon- to be boss, called me. He told me about an impromptu work trip to Jerusalem, Israel. Before my fellowship had even officially started, I realized that things would be similar to Greece: always taking on new forms.

The first week in Italy went from what was planned to be an introduction to my time in Rome to a preparation for our time in Israel. I barely had the chance to settle into my tiny flat, tucked away in a vicolo of Rome, before I was re-packing my bags.

Soon I traded city for desert. Although we were based in the San’Egidio owned apartment in the old city of Image removed.Jerusalem, we spent most of our time in Bethlehem, Palestine.

While the trip was focused on the Community’s work of peace building through inter-faith dialogue, I learned more about the functioning of the Catholic world beyond the walls of the Vatican.

“The mafia is everywhere habeebee,” said the head friar of the Franciscan order in Bethlehem, as he discussed the political and monetary situation of the various Catholic branches in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

In a sense, some aspects of my reality in Bethlehem and Jerusalem were not much different from Rome: there were cobblestone streets, a bunch of Catholic pilgrims and layers of ancient history.

Now, I am five weeks into my fellowship. Rome is in the midst of a heat wave and drought. Ironically, I sometimes wish I were back in the desert for a respite from the overheated city. On my way to work, I have learned a delicate dance of sidestepping sweat covered, dehydrated tourists all to the tempo of the erratic public transportation. I have come to the conclusion that pigeons in Rome live the best life: they fly high above the traffic and get to sit in the fountains.

Three times a week, I also volunteer in the soup kitchen from 4:30-8 p.m. It runs like a restaurant, and I am one of the waiters. We serve over 100 people during these long shifts ranging from recently arrived migrants to old Italians who can’t make it by on their pension. The space is not meant to deal with the current temperatures; but although the walls ooze heat, they also radiate an immense conviviality.

Currently, we are working to help the Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees who were surprise evicted from their illegal squat in the center of Rome this past Saturday morning. 800 asylum-seekers have found themselves sleeping on the streets of Rome. The heat, paradoxically, is welcome, as it makes nights without a roof slightly more comfortable.

At the beginning of September, I am headed to Münster and Osnabrück in Germany. Things will be cooler, if not even chilly. The Community hosts an international, yearly summit for interfaith leaders. This year the summit is “Paths of Peace” focused on migration.

As I am not religious, I was a bit hesitant at the beginning of my fellowship that I would feel as an outsider. But here, I am considered a “friend.” In fact, I am encouraged to use this label even when referring to my boss Claudio. Things run a little like an oversized traditional, Italian family.  I am the distant, twice removed cousin. Even if my name might be occasionally forgotten, I am more than welcome.

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The view from the roof of the San'Egidio apartment in the old city of Jerusalem.



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The view from the roof of the San'Egidio apartment in the old city of Jerusalem.



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A napping nun in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.



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New Trump graffiti on the border wall dividing Bethlehem and Jerusalem.



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San'Egidio meeting with the Mayor of Bethlhem to discuss possible projects that San'Egidio can help organize with Palestinian youth groups.



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The profile of one of my co-workers, Anna, as we drove through the Jordan Valley on our way to Jericho to meet with Palestinian youth.


































































Chiara is one of 12 undergraduates who were awarded 2017 Streicker International Fellowships. Streicker Fellows design their own projects or internships in conjunction with a hosting organization. During her fellowship, she worked with the Community of St. Egidio in Rome (and Jerusalem) in their immigration welcome center.

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