Continuing our trip through Catania I will take to a rather unusual place. My post today is more serious than usual because the issue that grips my heart is homelessness. On the other side of that coin is human resilience in face of great odds.
The Roma people are doubly homeless – without the actual homes and without the country. Ever wandering from country to country in search of work; accepted or wanted nowhere. If you live in any European country you are familiar with their sight. Most people call them Gypsies and avoid them.
This particular Roma community in Catania (and there are multiple ones, later I will show you another one) lives in the garbage dump. As you approach the site you would never guess that a neighborhood of “homes” hides there. The dump is on the level with the road and the people live below it.
But as you descend a dirt road, you will see makeshift “houses” – built from anything useful that may be found in the dump. Wood, plywood, cardboard. It is better to let the people know someone is coming. This is an illegal site and the people are scared of being evicted by the police. But if you come bringing some kind of material help, they are friendly and will invite you to their homes.
And here comes the point of my admiration for the Roma. Their houses are as clean as can be. There is carpet on the floor. Inside is neat and tidy. They are proud of being able to provide at least that kind of shelter for their families. A roof over the head, a bed to sleep in, food on the table, clean water to drink and wash – the necessities of life taken care of. Even in these hard , hard circumstances the indomitable human spirit can carve an existence.
I mentioned that this is an illegal site. And it is. But since everyone knows that the Roma use this garbage dump as a “permanent” habitation, the government took charge of installing clean water in the valley. From there the men, women, and children walk or ride daily to the city in search or work or to beg. Unfortunately. Children do not go to school – the Roma families move far too often for that to happen and in reality no country wants them to attend their schools. This is a sad situation because lack of education for the children and lack of any well-paid vocation prevents these people of ever finding good jobs. So the cycle of hopelessness continues.
I do not know what the good solution for this problem could be. But one can do something, even if not to change it permanently than at least make one day better. When we went there we brought crayons and coloring books and spent time with the kids. Their parents were glad, the kids were laughing. Most of this happened using sign language, since very few of them spoke Italian and we did not either. But with a dose of good will small things that add up to bigger things can be accomplished.
In addition to the continuation of my journey through Catania, this is also a contribution to Weekly Photo Challenge – Admiration.