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Recently, during our Rome weXplore, our grade 10 students had the opportunity to participate in a particularly fulfilling place-based learning lesson by teaming up with the non-profit organization Project Rome for an afternoon. Project Rome, founded by British expats Mary Stuart-Miller and Steven Barnes, is “an initiative to encourage and inspire kindness, love, compassion and caring, worldwide, and bring human warmth to those who need it most.”
The initiative took shape in 2015, when Stuart-Miller decided to expand upon her volunteer work aiding Rome’s refugees and homeless. Instead of the soggy sandwiches and wilted fruit that she had been serving on behalf of a local nonprofit, Mary began mass-preparing nutritious meals like chicken risotto, rice and tuna salad, bean pasta, and vegetable curries for those in need. Fast forward one year later to present day and Project Rome has scaled up: its 20+ volunteers now provide over 300 meals to Rome’s downtrodden each week. Alongside the protein-packed meals, Mary, James, and the volunteers also provide haircuts and shaves, clothes, blankets, toys, and perhaps most importantly of all, an opportunity for the homeless to share stories, laugh, and confide — essentially feel dignity again.
Project Rome’s efforts are focused on two nights in particular: “Tiburtina Tuesday” and “Chiesa Sunday.” On Tuesdays, Mary and her volunteers meet over 200 men and women outside of Rome’s second largest train station, Roma Tiburtina, On Sundays, Mary and her volunteers gather outside of the Chiesa Custodi Catholic church with around 30 homeless to spend a couple of hours catching up and eating nutritious food.
During their Sunday afternoon with Project Rome, our Grade 10 students had the opportunity to assist Mary, Steven, and members of the homeless community with behind the-scenes-prep leading up to Chiesa Sunday. They helped with the slicing of vegetables, packaging food, swapping out winter clothes for summer clothes, dividing clothing and shoes up by size, folding garments, and creating packages of travel-sized toiletries, such as toothpaste, mouthwash, and deodorant (access to adequate bathing facilities is another massive problem faced by Rome’s homeless population). Once all of the prep work was done, Mary provided our students with a list of people’s’ names and the specific items they had requested, so that the students could go back to storage and find the items in need.
Acting as stewards of their local community proved to be a fulfilling and popular activity for our students, who found forging ties with Mary and her volunteers to be one of their highlights of their time in Rome.
“Project Rome is a great charity that Grade 10 collaborated to help feed and clothe 80 homeless people. The work that we had a hand in doing is inspiring, especially to see it make a difference in people’s lives. We also had a lot of fun and bonded to successfully and efficiently work together as a team.” -Elliot W., Grade 10
“The day with Project Rome was very eye-opening. Having the opportunity to work alongside the homeless preparing food to give away to other homeless in Rome was one of the best experiences of our trip. One of the biggest takeaways I got is a phrase from a chef that was homeless for 7 years. He told me: “It doesn’t matter how hard life hits you, what matters is how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” -Pablo H., Grade 10
Thanks to TGS team members Chung Man Chan and Sam Nelson for coordinating with Project Rome on this project and allowing it to take place.
Help Rome’s homeless
Roughly 8,000 people sleep rough each night in Rome. If you’d like to learn how you can help Mary, Steven, and the rest of their volunteers, we encourage you to visit Project Rome’s website for a breakdown of volunteer and giving options.