SUNY summer program
by Maria Strumendo
"I decided to take this program to learn more about Italy and their welfare system. I was interested in learning about the differences between services in America and Italy; it also made me understand America's welfare system in greater detail," Kasey Brohan said, SUNY New Paltz Student.
A customized Summer Program was set up by UCSC for students from SUNY (State University of New York) at New Paltz. The ten-day program provided students with the opportunity to learn about the social welfare system in Italy, whilst getting a taste of the Italian city and countryside lifestyles.
SUNY students with Donna Chaffee and Dolma
The students travelled to Milan, Piacenza, and Como and were accompanied throughout the program by licensed clinical worker and Instructor at SUNY New Paltz, Donna Chaffee, and Università Cattolica tutor, Dolma Bornengo.
Together with the students, Donna and Dolma visited both preventative agencies, as well as agencies providing services for people in need – neglected and abused children, people with developmental and psychiatric disabilities, people dealing with issues inculding substance abuse and domestic violence, and the elderly.
Agency visits were either activity or academic orientated. Each agency provided a brief history of the area that the agency focused on and a very informative description of the types of services provided, who received the services, and the funding sources.
"Everyone at every agency was not just welcoming, but were truly pleased to share their knowledge with us. Each agency held its own unique interest for the students," Donna said.
The group had the opportunity to meet with both staff and clients, and in some cases even participated in activities with clients, including cooking, playing games, and making leather goods.
"The students showed great enthusiasm when they were involved in practical activities and guided tours of the agencies," Dolma Bornengo said.
"I enjoyed hearing personal stories, and seeing the clients work on certain projects because it provided very different perspectives," Kasey said.
At ICOS psychiatric community, "we were given a very complete description of the history of services to the mentally ill in Italy and how significant changes in the laws have impacted the way that services are provided," Donna said.
And when the group was not visiting agencies they were exploring the cities.
"Milan is very beautiful and exceptionally easy to get around, both walking and public transportation. I enjoyed Piacenza for the change to a more rural atmosphere, and of course the luncheon was great at the agriturismo, whilst Como was a pleasant scenery change to the big city life," Lisa Munzer said.
"I think the impression that the girls now have of the Italian welfare system is very positive and rich, because the agencies were varied by type of beneficiaries and the type of services offered," Dolma said.
"I think the variety that the program offered was what made it truly enjoyable for the students: from the welcome aperitivo, to the city tour, the various site visits, the visit to an agriturismo, a day in Lake Como, and our own sightseeing," Donna said.
"It was the combination of these things that made it a total program," she said.