PHOTO: IOM/F. KIM
“I am from Minnesota, in the US. My father is of Mexican descent, and I think that that has kind of shaped my need to work with marginalized populations. My grandmother would talk about being hit in school if she spoke Spanish, and so my grandparents didn’t want my father to learn Spanish.
“When I was in high school, we housed Burmese refugees who had been living in a refugee camp in Thailand for 10 years, which opened my eyes to what refugees have to face. In college I saw that a large Somali community was located right next to the university, so I ended up studying Public Health with the intention to work in a refugee center in Somalia, and then go back to serve the Somali community in Minnesota.
“Then, I moved to New York where I met my husband, who is Italian and was working at the UN headquarters in New York. He was then offered a position in Rome so I quit my job, working in HIV research, and moved here a year and a half ago.
“I am now a volunteer coordinator at a refugee center in Rome, trying to facilitate integration.
“I am really lucky because my husband helped me navigate life in Rome. Here I am a person with solid support, adequate resources, a fair knowledge of Italian and I have already a hard time. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for those arriving, trying to figure things out here.”