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The pain of others cannot be felt, but it can be seen

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

This is the personal story of Alessia, a human rights graduate student and co-founder of the SET, passionate about supporting marginalized people who have no privileges. During the summer, she did her curricular internship in a refugee camp in Serbia.

I am a 25-year-old girl, born and raised in Padua. Since high school, I have been maturing the awareness of the privilege that I have as a white European girl coming from a family that has always put my happiness first. The injustices that permeate the world are the reasons why I decided to study human rights. In 2017, I concluded a bachelor’s degree in Political Sciences, International Relations and Human Rights, after which I enrolled in the HRG master’s programme. From July to September 2020, I did my curricular internship as a volunteer for the non-profit organization Caritas Valjevo, in Serbia.

The organization started its work in the city of Valjevo in the early 1990s. At first, it implemented various projects, from intervention programs to long-term programs. Today, Caritas Valjevo is carrying out several activities in the reception center for unaccompanied foreign minors in Bogovadja. Before leaving for Serbia, I had a specific idea of how a refugee camp would appear. I imagined a place full of dirtiness, suffering, sadness, and surrender. But, Bogovadja’s camp overturned my expectations. It was in good condition, not overcrowded, and surrounded by nature.

The people that I had the honor of meeting made the experience so fundamental to me, to my future choices, and to my perspective. The guys housed in the camp mainly came from Afghanistan. They were determined to fight for their future, for their security, for their freedom. They were young fighters and for them, surrender was not an option. However, sometimes I could perceive their tiredness and frustration. They were victims of a harsh criminal migration policy (supported and financed by an accomplice European Union) based on impermeable borders and illegal pushbacks. Additionally, the global pandemic aggravated their vulnerability. My experience in the field was really challenging. I saw twelve-year-old children, some of whom had injured feet, risking their lives, leaving the centre alone with only a backpack on their shoulders. They wanted to continue on the Balkan route (which they ironically call "the game") to reach Europe, “the land of Human Rights”. Some children returned after several failed attempts. "Police big problem my friend, police deport," they would say to me smiling. Despite the rejection and indifference they experienced, they always gave me love and above all, gratitude. After all, I understood how similar we were in our differences.

“The pain of others cannot be felt, but sometimes it can be seen”.

Looking back, the internship at Caritas Valjevo helped me adopt a new, realistic perspective on human rights. The situations on the ground challenge the paradigm of universality of human rights. Moreover, the little trust I had in the international institutions collapsed. The civil society that is in each of us, has to raise its voice and act for a change. I believe human rights activists have the duty to testify to the sufferings of those people sentenced to a harsh life solely due to the colour of their passport, and to condemn those who deny their freedom of movement. Today, I am striving to conclude my university career. After that, my mission is to put all my knowledge, skills, and privilege at the disposal of those who have no privileges.

Written by Alessia Rossi

Edited by Giulia Rosina and Christine Nanteza

Per leggere in italiano, fai clic con il pulsante destro del mouse in un punto qualsiasi di questa schermata e seleziona "Traduci in italiano"


Alessia Rossi is a human rights graduate student, currently doing her Erasmus in Spain, strongly committed to fighting for the betterment of marginalized people. Follow Alessia's story on Instagram @alesofiarouge and Facebook @Alessia Rossi.


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