The “UniSalento4Refugees” program of Italian language and culture for refugees and asylum seekers is promoted by the University of Salento in collaboration with the Prefecture and the Municipality of Lecce.
The totally free courses include lessons from qualified teachers of Italian L2 (Italian as a second language) and conversation groups with the direct involvement of UniSalento students. Participants also have the opportunity to take the "LanguageCert International ESOL test" free of charge thanks to an agreement between the University Language Centre and the LanguageCert international certification body.
“In reiterating the full collaboration of the Prefecture of Lecce in the activation of integration processes also through the learning of the Italian language”, emphasizes the Prefect Maria Rosa Trio, “I would especially like to express my personal appreciation for the initiative of the University of Salento which confirms, once again, the profound culture of hospitality that the Salento population expresses through its institutions and the University's ability to create synergies and opportunities of growth for the territory”.
“UniSalento4Refugees is a model project”, says the Councillor for Reception at the Municipality of Lecce Silvia Miglietta, “which sees local institutions collaborate to offer an essential service of reception and integration to refugees and asylum seekers. Knowledge of the language and culture of the country where they are welcomed is a right to be recognized for those who are forced to leave their homeland and come to us frightened and disoriented. With this free Italian language courses we give them the first and most important tool to be autonomous and at ease in our communities”.
“The project was born because we felt it was our duty to offer a service to those in difficult situations, but the experience proved to be an opportunity for enrichment and growth for all of us, a precious moment of sharing that deeply moved us, even at an emotional level. We have made a community in the true sense of the word”, explains Professor Maria Renata Dolce, coordinator of the program. “With this initiative the University of Salento, in conjunction with the local institutions, has intended to contribute to making our area a place of meeting and mediation between different cultures, to build paths of peace, respecting cultural diversity. In this context, the contribution of the UniSalento tutor students proved to be fundamental. They took care of the conversation groups with refugees. Our students worked with passion and generosity and their vigilant and active attendance was rewarded by the looks and smiles of those who, with the telling of their own story, have taught us what it means to have to fight every day to reaffirm the right to a dignified life”.
“The University Language Center is very pleased to be able to facilitate and promote this project,” says CLA Director Thomas Christiansen. “It is an enterprise of great value both for students, who come from all over the world, and for all UniSalento staff, teachers, tutors and students: an unforgettable experience of personal education. A confirmation of the value of this project and its objectives is the important recognition from the international certification body LanguageCert, with which the CLA collaborates: in fact, the body, touched by the enthusiasm shown by all, offered the possibility to students of the program to take the LanguageCert International ESOL test for free. In this way, they will be able to enrich their curriculum also with an important exam recognized both in Italy and internationally”.
“I enthusiastically welcomed the proposal to teach Italian to the recipients of the Unisalento4Refugees project”, says Damiano Longo, Italian L2 teacher, “a heterogeneous group of students from all parts of the world, who have formed a class with different skills but with a common matrix: the (inter) cultural passion and motivation to learn the Italian language. In well-equipped university classrooms, I breathed in the beauty of teaching Italian as a tool for social integration, where the life stories of the students, sometimes very strong, have helped to enrich my professional experience”.
“We participated in the project believing that we were teaching a lot of our language and culture to those who attended. In reality, it was them who became our teachers, especially in life”, conclude the UniSalento tutor students. “In our small way we have grown professionally, but especially as human beings, we realized how much we should appreciate things that we take for granted every day. A Czech proverb says Whoever learns a new language gets a new soul. These people already have a soul full of magical colors, we all wish them the best that life can offer”.