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  • Writer's pictureAutumn Lamb

Week 8: Multiculturism & Social Experiments

Writing feels a little more bohemian and poetic when nestled in the corner of a hookah bar on cushions and low chairs from the middle east, with a tray of delicious hummus, muhamara, mutable, naan, and mint tea. It’s hard to believe I’m still in Rome. A little piece of my writers heart leaps with joy at the experience.


This week was heavy with schoolwork in preparation for upcoming final projects for our program. I started with an interview with the organization where I have been volunteering, to learn more about the larger work happening there and in the community. The more I read and learn about this unique ground-up social project, the more impressed I am. I keep thinking about how there is really nothing like this in the US, at least that I am aware of.


We had a lengthy conversation, and I look forward to putting together my assessment paper and sharing more in detail. What I can share for now is that this social project exemplifies the adage that “looks can be deceiving.” What started as an unoccupied building and an action group focused on unhoused and vulnerable people in the city is now a space where 400 people live (representing 26 countries), collaborate, hold meetings, welcome people to co-work, and more. The space feels so multicultural, so Roman, and so fundamentally human.


A sample of activities taking place within the building and neighborhood school:

  • Italian language classes for adults

  • A theatre that holds classes, hosts touring theatre companies, and performs homegrown productions

  • Women make dinners to earn money and share culture with the community

  • A workshop is housed within the building where interested residents can learn woodworking skills. Furniture is made in the shop and featured within the building

  • Events for youth and community to exchange culture and connection


Of course, this space is not without its share of struggles. Utilities were cut off in the past, creating unsafe and unsanitary living conditions. In an amazing story, their power was restored with the authority and blessing a powerful world known Roman resident. That really deserves its own storytelling post.


Over the years, many people and city/business officials have attempted to evict the residents. Several rounds of discussions and demonstrations have happened over the years to prevent this from happening. Current discussions include the city purchasing the property and handing it over to the main organizations involved in services within the building. The mayor of Rome recognizes the value of the social fabric that has been woven over this past decade. Even with this support and understanding, there are multiple factors at play that will impact whether this comes to fruition.


The story of human connection, collective power, social collaboration, and activism meet in a unique way within this occupied building. I have never seen anything like it and am in awe of the multitude of ways ideals are worked out through practical and intentional efforts.


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