Zontians from Sanremo aid refugees from Afghanistan

On 23 August, Sanremo went from the City of Flowers and Song to the City of Solidarity- welcoming over 350 political refugees from Afghanistan. Most came without luggage, some came barefoot, and half were minors.

During the first week, Zonta Club of Sanremo President Cinzia Papetti and Lorena Grossi began an appeal to their community and the media to donate clothing, medication and other needs for the refugees, working with the Italian Red Cross. Within a few days, the Red Cross headquarters received hundreds of donations.

As the days passed, Cinzia and Lorena bonded with the female refugees and realized how quickly life flipped on them. They all had a promising future as doctors, lawyers, engineers and more. They had to abandon their dreams, livelihoods and loved ones in fear of persecution. Their only alleged crime was being an educated and strong woman.

The Sanremo community embraced the refugees. Undeterred by their recent displacement, the refugees found tiny grasps of happiness in eating ice cream by the beach, exploring the Italian neighborhoods, and visiting the local newspaper. Cinzia, along with other volunteers, gave them a city tour. Along the way, Cinzia and Lorena met two inspiring young women: Narges, a 25-year-old English teacher, and Behnaz, a 29-year-old lawyer.

Back in Afghanistan, both young women were volunteers for the Global Shapers Community. Their goals were to teach underprivileged children how to read and write and educate girls and women on their human rights. After the Afghan government fell, Narges and Behnaz had to destroy their laptops, diplomas and certifications, and all traces of themselves on social media. They took those measures out of fear of possible retaliation against family members they had to leave behind and will probably never meet again.

The club donated a mobile phone to Narges, who lost hers during her escape. They also wanted to provide moments of frivolity to other women, so they handed out lipsticks, enamels, and eyeliners. But most importantly, they gave each woman a yellow rose- to symbolize the fundamental principles of Zonta International and a sign for a better future.