Volunteering for Unicef in Perugia

The mugs at the Farmers Market. All the mugs had various pictures and captions that featured the cartoon character Pimpa.

The mugs at the Farmers Market. All the mugs had various pictures and captions that featured the cartoon character Pimpa.

When I arrived in Perugia I knew that I wanted to become a part of the community as quickly as possible. At first I was not sure how I could accomplish this but after speaking with the faculty at the Umbra Institute, an opportunity to work with the Perugia office of Unicef presented itself. I filled out all the paperwork, took a tour of the field office, and was excited to start helping out as soon as possible.

My first assignment was to sell mugs that contained orchid seeds at a farmers market. The profits of the sales and donations went towards purchasing immunizations for underprivileged children. I thought that by volunteering with Unicef I would be filing documents in the office or doing menial tasks—I never thought that I would be out in the street directly interacting with locals. Initially I was afraid to approach people, thinking that I would make mistakes while speaking in Italian. However, with time my confidence grew and I managed to sell some mugs. Throughout the day I spoke more with my fellow volunteers and heard stories of their experiences at Unicef. These interactions with the volunteers were the highlight of the weekend because I learned more about Italian values and outlooks that I had not previously considered. As a Government major I love further understanding new perspectives on global current events. I

Picture taken on the first day in Perugia

Picture taken on the first day in Perugia

believe that by gaining this understanding it is possible to have a firmer knowledge of the culture and society. The other volunteers were more than willing to share and explain their viewpoints, making the experience memorable.

The past few weeks I have been helping make Pigotta dolls at Unicef. The creation of Pigotta, meaning rag doll in the Milanese dialect, started fifteen years ago. Volunteers craft these dolls that are sold to fund immunization programs. The Umbra Institute arranged for American students to go to the Unicef office once a week to help in making these dolls; however most of the American students only have a basic understanding of Italian and the Unicef volunteers do not know English. As a result, I help translate between the two groups of volunteers. Bridging the language gap between the volunteers always gives me a sense of pride. Despite the many differences between the two groups, they come together to help the greater society. By translating for Unicef I have come to learn how critical communication is not only to convey ideas but also to unite groups of people.

Thanks to my time thus far at Unicef I feel that my Italian language skills have drastically improved. I feel more comfortable and confident interacting in Italian with others. If I do not know how to say something or the meaning of a word, the volunteers are all patient with me. I am delighted to have the spectacular opportunity of volunteering within the community of Perugia while helping a global cause. I have already learned so much in the short time I have been in Perugia and I cannot wait to see how much I will grow by the end of this experience!

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