When we as volunteers present ourselves to locals, other volunteers, working for the Fondazione, UISP, Onyx Jazz Club etc., have an easier time doing so: Most people from the region know some of their organisations or their organisations name gives away their type of work. Associazione Tolbà, my organisation, is lesser known than the others, however in no way is their work less important.
Here at Tolbà, around a dozen people, including David Vicente and myself, work daily for the benefit of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Here meaning in this case in an office in Via de Lorenzo, just a few steps away from Via Roma. Associazione Tolbà is an organisation with several very different obligations and aims, all concerning the assistance and integration of refugees. Tolbà remains an unpolitical organisation, evenin times like this, where topics like migration and refugees are constantly being ambushed by different political parties for the sake of gaining constituency. As mentioned before, Tolba has obligations and aims in different areas which can mainly be divided into two fields: Firstly, Associazione Tolbà works as the legal operators of four different so called “struttura di accoglienza”, centres for permanent housing of refugees which are also responsible for their integration. 45 people, all of them unaccompanied minors (MSNA=minori stranieri non accompagnati), are thereby subordinated to the care of Tolbà. Legal operators at Tolbà work daily to ensure progress in any administrative action by their subordinates. This ranges from conducting interviews with them, discussing and consulting future legal procedures, to accompanying them to all the before mentioned procedures. Furthermore, they try their best to help with daily problems and life, however measures and problems are strictly confidential^^. Secondly, Associazione Tolbà fights racism, xenophobia and lack of acceptance, both through projects directly targeting racism and through the so-called scuola, a place where nearly every day, migrants can take part in Italian classes, thereby increasing chances of employment and social acceptance. Furthermore, the doposcuola organises frequent learning classes during the afternoon, where young teenagers and adolescents with a foreign background can be assisted with their homework and studying. Even though this may sound simple, it does have important benefits confirmed by the fact that every single one of the attendees does return to the dopo scuola. Finally, it is worth mentioning that Tolbà is also working as a publisher of books for different age groups, all of them multilingual to further increase the presence of the topics and to help learn the new language Italian or to create interest in another. David and myself however do not work in this part of Tolbà.
So far, my occupation and interest are above all the first and law-related work field. I work during mornings in our office, assisting the legal operators in any given way. This assistance can range from researching to confirm reasons for emigration from the home countries of some of the subordinates, to just searching for villages and their spelling to make sure they exist so that there won’t be any complications during a hearing. Most of my time however I spend just reading thesis’, documents and articles about Italian and international migration law. To some of you the latter probably sounds more like a punishment than an interesting work, but for me, already interested in law before
coming here, it’s as close to perfect as it can probably get. From time to time, I even join one of the legal operators, Anita, for her visit to one of the communities, receiving new insights and meeting interesting people. To complete my 30-hour week, I take part in three two-hour doposcuola-lessons during the afternoon, which does mix things up rather nicely.
The great thing about Tolbà is the combination of social cause and very free choices when it comes to what you work: Associazione Tolbà was very adaptable to David and my interests: Since David preferred the language classes in the morning while I was more hooked by the legal aspect of Tolbà, we now only see each other in the afternoon for the learning group. Even though I do have strong views on far-right tendencies across Europe and on the great importance organisations like Tolbà have in our society, those would be too long and extensive to clearly express in this setting and some of the latter can also be found in David’s article. However, I will mention that learning about “legge Salvini” and its effects and seeing the direction Austrian politics are currently going, I grew more concerned about our future. I have always been very interested in politics, history and law. Through my parents influence I gained interest in social projects and started volunteering. In the last years of school, I took part in a project which mainly focused on migration and its history, discussing integration in the process. Through a wish of the participating students we started a collaboration with a centre for unaccompanied minor refugees. After that I was sure that, even though I did not want to work in a social organisation, participating in such a project was always going to be interesting. While searching for an EVS I quickly focused on Projects that centred around either Migration or People with disabilities, the latter because of my final graduating Paper which I wrote about a similar topic. Finding Associazione Tolbà proved to be a perfect mix between city and organisation.
So far, I really enjoyed working here, preferring however working at the office and learning about law in the process. Even though I also enjoy the doposcuola for the teenagers and children, it has proven to be difficult from time to time given the fact that they have difficulties in the English language and my Italian doesn’t progress as fast as I hoped before coming here. Over the next 7 months I hope to increase my knowledge on the different subjects that Tolbà covers and become a well-functioning gear and part of my organisation. Finally, I really expect to challenge myself and gain important experiences from working and being abroad, something that many of my peers won’t have at this point in their lives. Therefore, I appreciate everything Tolbà has given me so far.