Students get dirty in Florence,

Locals and foreigners work together in community clean up

Brenda Dionisi, Carlo V. Mori
September 24, 2009

When director of the Lorenzo de' Medici school, Fabrizio Guarducci, asked his American students if they wanted to help locals in a street cleaning initiative in San Lorenzo on September 19, what he was trying to do, in reality, was get a laugh out of them. Much to his surprise, they responded with a resounding: "Yes, we can!".

 

Demonstrating much enthusiasm from the get go, the group of American study-abroad students got their hands dirty in a local city clean-up initiative, called Clean and paint Florence. The initiative was launched by a small group of socially minded citizens who dedicated one Saturday in September to paint over the graffiti that marks Florence's via Faenza. However, it didn't take much to gather likewise minded people, and a bone fide event was soon born.

 

Its purpose is to promote respect for the city through meaningful displays of active citizen involvement. The event, in which locals and foreign alike, got together to clean streets and restore vandalized, graffiti-marred walls, was a meaningful response to the invitation by the city of Florence urging citizens to reclaim their city following years of neglect and degradation. Indeed, one-week prior, on September 12, the municipal council launched a larger city wide clean up, called A kiss to Florence, in which hundreds of community-minded volunteers participated. Deemed a success without precedent in Florence, mayor Matteo Renzi took the opportunity to announce that parking lots near Careggi hospital would be free by mid-October.

 

The clean and pain initiative in San Lorenzo differs in that it involved foreign students, as well. This display of citizen empowerment was partly made possible by the use of social medias, among them Facebook, but thanks to the network supporting sustainable practices, like Zoes (www.zoes.it), and AFIF (A Friend In Florence) the local network aimed at integrating English speaking visitors and residents.It was a great chance for students to learn something. Simple and important crafts, like painting, can turn out to be exciting learning opportunities while promoting civic awareness and intercultural socialization.

 

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