This year's Joint Meeting of Alliance Working Groups and Committees, that took place in Anticoli Corrado (Rome) hosted by Legambiente from 1 to 3 September, was much more than a usual meeting to prepare the General Assembly of November.
Thanks to Legambiente, we had the chance to meet the collective Baobab experience at piazzale Maslax in Rome, on the morning of 4th September.
Baobab is a citizens' movement of local activists who, since May 2015, has been supporting 72.000 migrants transiting through Rome in their travel towards northern countries. Baobab Experience shows that a conscious and human civil society does exist in Rome, despite the efforts of local and national authorities to "hide" the emergency that thousands of migrants live everyday in the streets of the capital, by evicting them from public spaces and occupied buildings without providing alternative housing solutions. Baobab has been evicted around 15 times from several buildings and open spaces in Rome, forcing the now 100 (out of 500) remaining migrants to move to a more isolated place.
Baobab volunteers come from very different social, professional and ideological backgrounds, and together they provide psychological support, health care, legal assistance, clothes, food, a place to sleep and cultural/free time activities to the nearly 100 people who are currently living in the camp at piazzale Maslax, close to Tiburtina train station.
On 4th September, right after the Joint Meeting of Working Groups, around 20 representatives from Alliance organisations, accompanied by Legambiente volunteers and the president Rossella Muroni, had an informative meeting with a member of Baobab and then contributed with a small but important voluntary action: all together, locals, migrants and international volunteers cleaned the area of the camp from the trash and brought their concrete solidarity to the migrants and the local volunteers. It was an inspiring and emotional experience for many of us, both migrants and volunteers, which confirms the importance of building solidarity bridges that allow people to meet, get to know each other, support each other despite borders.
This is what we do through workcamps, and it is what we will continue doing in our everyday work at local and international level.
We, the Alliance, deeply thank Legambiente for providing us with this important experience, and we thank Baobab volunteers for keeping humanity alive in such a hard situation.
Our thoughts remain with all the people we met at Baobab, with whom we cleaned together, we played football, we exchanged few words, we learnt about the past and the dreams for the future. Our message to them is that they are not forgotten and they are not alone. We cannot open the borders or provide dignity shelter for them, but we can spread the message that we "defend people, not borders", tell their story and keep working through International Voluntary Service for an open and welcoming Europe.