JCU Volunteers Partner with Vo.Re.Co. Center to Serve Local Community
JCU’s Community Service Program provides many opportunities for volunteer work. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, student volunteers serve meals and distribute food to local communities at the Vo.Re.Co. center in Rome. The initiative stemmed from a partnership between the JCU Community Service Program and the Vo.Re.Co. center.
The Vo.Re.Co. center was established in 2012, and it offers free and essential services to ex-prisoners and disadvantaged communities. The organization was founded by Padre Vittorio Trani and is open to all. Daily volunteer teams are led by student site leaders Luca Beccato, Giulia Leo, and Elisa Paris, whose role is to oversee and administer tasks to volunteers under the supervision of the Vo.Re.Co. staff members. Site leaders also handle any communication and language barriers that occur between volunteers and recipients.
The food provided is donated by other non-profit organizations and local restaurants, as well as JCU’s Tiber Café in conjunction with STAND. In an attempt to avoid food waste, resources in surplus are donated to other marginalized communities, including Roma populations living on the outskirts of Rome, or sent to organizations in Africa. Any remaining bread that is not fresh enough to serve is directed to nearby farms and repurposed as animal feed.
Vo.Re.Co. center coordinator Angela Iannace stressed the importance of adequate meals. “I want to provide our guests with the best quality food. They either eat the same food that I eat, or better. This is something I will never compromise on!” Students found Vo.Re.Co. rewarding because of its unique set up. Guests are served one at a time, which facilitates personal interactions between students and community members.
Site leader Luca realized, through his experience leading the dinner packaging team, that “since food is deeply rooted in our experience, when providing dinner to those in need we are giving much more than nutrients. Providing food means providing hope.”
Site leader Elisa has recognized the impact that Vo.Re.Co. has on volunteers and guests. “The more challenging the experience, the more insight students gain,” she said. The time Elisa spent with Vo.Re.Co. has given her a new understanding of the community. She has never seen a student leave Vo.Re.Co. without the added gratification of having given something back.
JCU students have given positive feedback on their experiences at Vo.Re.Co. “You are involved in the entire process, from the preparation to the packaging of the meals. You get that chance to join in on a process and see the results of your hard work before you leave, and that is truly heartwarming,” said site leader Giulia.