My mantra in my new life in Calabria, Italy, is: "the answer is always yes."
So when my friend Isa (who is an amazing, knowledgeable travel guide. You should hire her if you visit Calabria!) asked if I wanted to visit a nearby village that housed a community of immigrants doing cool things, the answer was, of course, YES!
Jungi Mundu: A Global Village
I truly didn't know what to expect, but what I got blew me away.
Camini is a tiny mountain town about an hour from where I live in Calabria. It might have become one of Italy's many abandoned towns but for the saving grace of Eurocoop, a social cooperative that launched Jungi Mundu in 1999.
This organization is designed to provide immigrants from developing (or war-torn) countries with a safe place to land in Italy. They are given accommodations and Italian language lessons. They are also given the opportunity to participate in one of the village's laboratori, labs that center around ceramic making, loom weaving, instrument making, and other artisanal crafts.
A Warm Welcome
Isa has visited Camini so many times, everyone knows her. But I'm sure even if our group had arrived without her, we would have received a warm welcome just the same.
We visited the workshop for the Ama-La Project, which empowers refugee women by teaching them textile crafts like weaving and dyeing fabrics using natural materials like leaves.
We also chatted with a Pakistani man and his son who turned African fabrics into gorgeous purses, table runners, and scarves.
There was also a ceramics lab. Later, when we had lunch at the nearby bar, we'd marvel at the hand-crafted wine pitcher and glasses.
We also got a tour of an exhibit by Australian artist Virginia Ryan, and then met young men from Bangladesh who made the best pizzas in the area.
A Palpable Sense of Community
After our tour of the village, we had lunch, as I said, at the town's bar. A group of philosophy students chattered at a nearby table, and I felt envious of them for having such a cool field trip. I certainly didn't see anything half as interesting during my studies!
The President of the cooperative had shown us around, and now I saw him chatting with locals and visitors with ease. It was clear this was more than a job to him; it was a community.
I love what Jungi Mundu is doing for immigrants. It's giving them a soft place to land and providing them with a sense of home and purpose.