I am Miranda, I am 25 and I come from Italy. Six years ago, when I graduated from high school, I never imagined that I would be here writing the following words. When I was a kid, I decided that I would have worked in the foreign languages field. After graduating from a linguistic high school, I wanted to become a physiotherapist. Then, I completely changed my mind and I enrolled in Political Sciences in Brussels. Now, I found myself studying Human Rights in Padova.
When you are young it is not easy to find ‘your path’, and you often end up studying and working on different issues. For our generation, I believe that being flexible and ready to acquire the most disparate knowledge and skills is fundamental. Obviously, I admire people that have always known who they wanted to become. However, job training seminars attended during the last two years made me realise that I probably belong to those who would rather shape their own career through the opportunities that arise in the surrounding context rather than having a ‘dream job’.
This does not correspond to a lack of ambitiousness. On the contrary, I learned to perceive it as an indicator of extreme determination and creativity. I owe this determination to movie director Debra Kellner who participated as a guest during a first-year lecture to present her reporting work along the Balkan migration route. As a movie director, she was not an expert in migration, or in human rights, or in humanitarian aid. Still, she felt that her contribution as a reporter would have helped in some way to improve some people’s lives. From that moment on, the final goal that inspired any experience that I undertook was to operate a change, even if slight, into someone else’s life.
This leads me to present my experience with Avvocato di Strada ODV, an association that literally translates to Street Lawyer.
After a remote internship experience, last summer I decided to apply for a Padova-based internship. Avvocato di Strada is a national volunteering organisation that was born in Bologna in 2000 with the aim of providing free legal assistance to homeless people, and then spread in different Italian cities, including Padova. The idea is to provide adequate access to justice to people who cannot afford it because of their marginality, in an attempt to protect their fundamental rights such as right to housing, right to food, right to justice, and right to an adequate standard of living.
The Padova headquarter has been operational since 2004 and it works through an administrative office composed of students, trainees, but also citizens who make themselves available to help, and a group of volunteers who can be both qualified lawyers, law graduates, or students.
Before the pandemic, people could show up in the established time slots, while now it is necessary to book an appointment to respect the health norms foreseen by the government. Once received, people are assisted with the issues they face in their daily life, that can range from residence issues, evictions, issues experienced in the workplace, or problems related to the refugee status. The main objective is to make the users aware of their civil and penal responsibility and to avoid that he/she undertakes judicial paths that are not sustainable.
A specific time slot has been dedicated to residence after the introduction of a special instrument called ‘residenza in via fittizia’ that allows to people living in the street to register under a fictitious address in order to obtain a residence certificate, and consequently have access to basic services as healthcare, have access to vote, or have access to work. The administrative office is responsible for this procedure since a lawyer is not needed to provide a fictitious residence to homeless people.
The role that I had as intern within the association was heterogenous and it included the participation to interviews between the lawyers and the users, answering the phone and taking appointments, transcribing the fact sheets with personal data and details about the legal practice, but also addressing some users to offices or services in the city. Moreover, in October I also helped in the organisation of the ‘Homeless Night’, a series of events such as concerts, shows, workshops and seminars with the aim of raising awareness about homelessness and involving citizenship in the assistance of homeless people.
A strong point, compared to the remote internship I previously had, is the active role I played. It happened that, supported by an operator, I could interview people in need of a fictitious residence myself. Furthermore, working in contact with lawyers allowed me to better understand and to widen my knowledge on topics such as migration law, or criminal law, which was highly inspiring. Lastly, the internship has been helpful for my personal growth as a citizen since it gave me the instruments to assist people in need and address them, for example, to facilities providing food (soup kitchens), shelters, clothes, or a hot shower for free.
I would not define it a weak point, but a challenge that I met during the journey was the close contact with marginalised people. When you find yourself in front of a person who is often hungry, angry, and feel humiliated for asking help and being in need, it is not always easy to find the right word and to detach yourself emotionally from the job.
The experience with Avvocato di Strada opened a new chapter of my life and, maybe, of my future career. What I feel like conveying to future generations of students and interns is to never look at yourself as a small, powerless, a dot in the ocean, because any tiny, good gesture you make can have a huge impact around you, even, perhaps, on someone else's life.
Written by Miranda Lio
Edited by Alex Frattin
Pictures courtesy of: Miranda Lio
Miranda is a second year Human rights and Multi-level Governance student. She embraces any kind of experience on the field that makes her closer to the subjects studied.
Follow Miranda on:
For more: like, comment, share and subscribe.