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Dedicating one year to the community and democratic protagonism

With Francesca Morganella, 2-year HRG student, passionate about protecting the rights of migrants, and looking forward to innovative tools for inclusion and education.

My name is Francesca, I am from Benevento, a municipality and province in the Campania region, and I have been living in Padua for two years. In October 2019 I applied for the Universal Civil Service at the Human Rights Centre “Antonio Papisca” and finally, after the selection process and a delay due to Covid-19, in May 2020 I started my journey. I am writing to describe to you this incredible and valuable opportunity provided by the Department for Juvenile Policies, while adding some episodes from my personal experience. First things first. The Universal Civil Service (Servizio Civile Universale, SCU from now on) is the voluntary choice to dedicate some months of your life - from 8 to 12 months - to the unarmed and non-violent defence of the country, to education, to peace among people, and to the promotion of the founding values of the Italian Republic, through interventions for the community and the territory. Only young people between 18 and 28 and 364 days of age can participate in a single project, once in life. There are opportunities both in Italy and abroad. Volunteers receive a monthly contribution of 439.50 euros. The SCU is an experience of great educational and civic value, which enables young people with professional skills for navigating the job market.

The SCU had been in my plans for a long time, and once I moved to Padua, I decided to apply for the project HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS: THE "REFUGE CITIES". ACTIONS OF SOLIDARITY AND DEMOCRATIC PROTAGONISM promoted by the Human Rights Centre (HRC). I was eager to learn about human rights from a practical point of view, so I asked myself what I could do and where I could start. It seemed a unique opportunity not to be missed. As a volunteer, my main tasks include the daily production of editorial content, in-depth analysis, multimedia documentation on issues relating to a culture of peace and human rights. Additionally, I manage social media accounts and the newsletter. All the work is delivered both in Italian and English. Usually, the workload is 25 hours per week, so it is possible to conjugate attending classes and volunteering. In my experience, having online classes helped me a lot to reconcile the two things. Above all, carrying out the SCU at the HRC is giving me the possibility to be always up-to-date on the global developments of human rights and to apply such wide knowledge in my university courses.

So far, the major obstacle I encountered was at the very beginning: due to the Covid-19 situation at first, the SCU was postponed, and then it was moved online, which was very tiring. I had difficulties in getting to know the other three colleagues, forming a group, understanding my tasks. The training phase was the most stressful part. Volunteers are entitled to receive general and specific training courses. The general training is about the principles underlying the SCU; while the specific training is inherent to single projects. They both are compulsory, and they usually are developed throughout the year, during the hours of service, but this time they were concentrated in the first month and carried out entirely remotely. So, I spent every single day of May attending the training, namely 41 hours of training, and towards the end, it also overlapped with the beginning of the July exam-session. In the end, I managed both, but I suggest everyone enhance time management skills and be prepared for some rush time.

As I mentioned before, there are several projects to choose from, both in Italy and in foreign countries, mainly in developing countries. Foreign students with regular residence permits, EU citizens, and refugees can also apply. For instance, two of my colleagues are students coming from Brazil and Russia. Being part of an international team is like being on a trip for me: learning the Russian, Brazilian, and Moldavian traditions is being an incredible multicultural experience. At the end of the civil service, volunteers receive a certificate that in addition to representing an extra point in the CV, demonstrates the acquisition of skills. Personally, I am enormously increasing writing, editorial, and networking skills.

To conclude, I would describe my experience with the following two words “learning by doing”: thanks to the kindness, helpfulness and professionalism of the people I met, I am learning a lot and opening up my horizons more and more. Sometimes books and university courses do not help us to find our own path. The SCU is helping me to strengthen my motivation as a human right defender, to experience a job environment and to more precisely picture my dream job. My year of SCU dedicated to the community and democratic protagonism at the HRC will finish in May 2021. Looking to the future, I will continue to work for a better society through volunteering experiences.

The 2021 SCU call is online. There are 3.553 projects, which means 55.793 positions, for young people between 18 and 28 years and 364 days. The term for applying is Monday, the 15th of February at 2 pm. The application to one project must be delivered online, at the following link Further information about the projects, the institutions, and the specific requirements for each project can be found at the following links and Per leggere in italiano, fai clic con il pulsante destro del mouse in un punto qualsiasi di questa schermata e seleziona "Traduci in italiano".


Follow Francesca's story on Instagram @morganella_francesca, Facebook @Francesca Morganella and Linkedin.

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