22 July, 2013

L’Alternativa Onlus stands for equality and justice

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Ruxandra Pandea
9 am

“L’Alternativa Onlus” is a non-governmental organisation operating in Ostia, a neighbourhood of Rome. The organisation works with socially excluded groups, especially Roma, homeless and sex workers. The organisation is led by young people and most of the volunteers are aged between 18 and 35.

Valentina Auliso, volunteer in the No Hate Speech Movement campaign, met with Marzia  PITIRRA, member of the organisation, to discuss the experience of hate crime and hate speech that young people in Ostia are faced with, particularly those coming from disadvantaged groups.

Valentina Auliso: What is your organisation about? l'alternativa1

Marzia Pitirra: Our organisation is a non profit organisation with several projects, all about helping people with less opportunities. We work mainly with homeless people and Roma minority in Ostia, but we have work sometimes also with sex workers and drug addicts.

V.A. What is your role in the organisation?

M.P.: I’m an active member from 2004.  I work especially with homeless people. Every monday night, together with  other volunteers, we go out and meet homeless people, trying to give them social and communicative support, food, blankets and other essential goods. We also try to give them information about their rights and duties, health and shelter rights etc

V.A. What do you think about hate speech and crime in Ostia?

M.P.: I think hate is: leaving disadvantaged people sleep in the streets, without social support, goods and rights; and most of the time leaving those people be victim of racist and violent actions. Hate is to know all this and leave everything in the same way without the will of changing.

V.A. Have you dealt with hate motivated violence?

M.P.: Working with disadvantaged people , one becomes quickly aware of these stories. For example, last year I helped some Roma children to enrol in the primary school. After a few days, the children were verbally insulted by their classmates and did not want to go back to school more. Another case: one elderly homeless used to live in a trailer close to the pine forest. One night, a group of young guys began to throw stones at the trailer. He got very worried and scared about what happened.

V.A.: What do you usually do to help these people?

M.P.: In the first case we spoke with teachers and we thought to arrange some “intercultural days” in the school to inform and make aware children over coexistence and respect for other cultures. For the second case we spoke with the police and the municipality.

V.A. Do you have any support? From other organisations, from public institutions or people …

M.P.: We usually get some help from the municipality, the local church and local organisations, but the greatest help comes from people.

V.A. What would you say to the people who are not aware about the crimes happening?

M.P.: Don’t turn your head to the other side, open your eyes. There’s so much suffering around you and so many things to do for changing it.

V.A.  Would you like to change something in your community to avoid hate crimes?

M.P.: Yes. I would like to change the common idea that my community has about homeless, migrant and Roma people. I think the best thing to do is to improve the awareness about an intercultural society, in which every person has one place to stay, can enjoy education and health service and is not the victim of discrimination.

V.A. Why do you believe is important to tell the community about those stories and perhaps how?

M.P.: I really believe that a good informative campaign would be the best way.. if the community realize how many hate crime stories happen around us, people might start looking the world with different eyes… and maybe, next time, it will be easier help a person in distress or recognize a situation of social disadvantage.

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