Volunteer Service

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Volunteer Service May Include:
  • Education

  • Healthcare

  • Immigrant and Refugee Assistance

  • Adults with Disabilities

  • Community development organization

  • Elderly assistance

  • Food bank

  • Organic farm and rural retreat for the urban poor



"Although my service experiences were not of my initial choice, I ended up loving the environments I was working in. I grew and learned not only more about the people I helped and worked with, but even more so about myself. I learned more through my experiences in the community and with my home stay family than I ever did with my Italian classes at my home university."


- Joshua, Siena Fall semester

What is volunteer service like in Italy?

We get this question a lot. "Who goes to Europe to volunteer?" The answer is...lots of people. 


Even though Europe has a social safety net that is more comprehensive than in the U.S. or the developing world, there is still a lot of need throughout Europe that is not met by national governments or the European Union. Italy is no exception. While service is somewhat different in Europe, there are still plenty of opportunities to really get to know Italy. 

Service-learning™ in Italy provides the opportunity to experience social service in a country whose complicated political, economic, and social realities rarely permit the foreigner access to become an active part of society. You will serve 10-15 hours per week in an established Italian school or social agency, choosing to focus on one of three social service areas: education, healthcare, or immigrant and refugee assistance.


You may be focused on one of the many aspects of the education field. Whether teaching in an elementary school classroom, helping underprivileged children with their homework, or teaching English to adults in the evenings, you will be able to share your knowledge and skills while providing a beneficial service to the community.

Students serving in education will have constant contact with an instructor specialized not only in teaching languages, but also in pedagogical and educational processes. You will be followed throughout the experience by educational experts in order to provide the broadest possible panorama of the following topics: the means and ends of the educational process, the Italian educational system in this delicate moment of severe reform and transition, the behavior and role of the teacher, the new methods of language learning with regards to media use, and the relationship between disability and education. With the glotto-didactic experts, you will explore a variety of techniques and approaches to language instruction and will be guided through the fascinating mechanisms of the human mind that regulate the learning of language. This project gives students the unique opportunity to have a double function as student and teacher, learning while teaching in the field.


Studying first from a theoretical point of view, you will examine the recent developments of Italian healthcare services, both social and medical. This project encompasses various aspects of the Italian healthcare system and is made possible by the collaboration with several non-profit organizations in Siena. You will work alongside experts and will acquire in-depth knowledge of some of the key organizations within the Italian healthcare system.

Immigrant and Refugee Assistance

You may participate in one of the many social service projects initiated by various volunteer associations, addressing the needs of immigrants, refugees, and other underserved persons. The Associations' current activities include city food bank, clothing drive, soup kitchen, community projects for children, and literacy projects. There are many Eastern European and African immigrants that have settled in the Siena area.

Volunteer Service Examples

Following are examples of agencies where IPSL students have served in the past or may be able to serve. Other service placements may be available. Your placement will be determined by community and agency needs, as well as your interests, goals, and skills.

Association for Disabled Children
The Associazione Centro Ippico "Della Pergola" ASD is an organization that provides various forms of physical therapy to children and adults with disabilities. Students work at the organization’s newly constructed stables and helping with riding therapy, “ippoterapia”. Responsibilities will vary, as "Della Pergola" is a very hands-on organization. Students with previous riding experience may be asked to work solely with preparing the horses, while others will do any number of odd jobs on the grounds. The therapy sessions are individual, so there is always a need for volunteers to sit and talk with the people who are waiting to go in. In addition, students may be asked to help with the maintenance and structural improvements to the center as well as administrative support.

Il Laboratoria Center

This is a day center that is run entirely by volunteers. It provides assistance and organizes activities for Siena's disabled community. IPSL students can serve with local volunteers in organizing and participating in activities that range from art and music excursions to recreational visits to the public pool and site seeing visits to nearby towns. 

Community Development Organization
Founded in 1995, Il Muretto was created with the primary objective of providing opportunities for social, political, and economic growth for the inhabitants of the neighborhood known as Le Piagge. This area, located in the immediate periphery of Florence, was built in the early 1980s with the goal to “welcome”—or, more accurately, contain—the so-called rejects of society: ex-cons, drug addicts, and immigrants that year after year “invade” the Italian cities and countryside. It was constructed, like many similar urban peripheries, completely lacking infrastructures such as parks, community areas, and places for socialization. After just a few years, on the nearby banks of the Arno River, where Florence becomes countryside, the Rom community settled with no authorization. The area quickly became known as the “Florentine Bronx.”

The Association’s current activities in Le Piagge include community projects for children, recycling projects with every type of object and clothing with the goal to educate the zone to not waste, the Il Fermaglio printing house that seeks to integrate socially rejected young people through work experiences, literacy projects for Chinese and Rom children living in the neighborhood, and several workshops and evening courses for adults.

Cooperative Agency
La Proposta runs, in the medieval gardens, “L'Orto De' Pecci”, a restaurant which employs recovering drug addicts, ex-convicts, and individuals with special needs. There are two different sectors where students can serve. Students are able to assist in cooking food for restaurant employees, preparing the dining area for customers, and cleaning the kitchen. Students also have the opportunity to work in the gardens, both in restoration and in the cultivation of vegetables. The garden has lately become very popular.

Diabetes Association
An association located at the hospital in Siena that provides care to diabetics. Students assist doctors and nurses in attending to patients and also provide administrative support.

Elderly Residence
Students can work at a local elderly residence providing service to those who are no longer able to entirely care for themselves. The facility is located in the center of Siena and employs both professional caregivers as well as volunteers from the community. Activities in which students participate include excursions, games/ entertainment, serving meals, and simply providing company to those who are in need of human contact.

Food Bank - The Bancarella Alimentare
A program sponsored by the Misericordia for those in need. Here students volunteer to help run a local food bank twice a week funded by the Misericordia. Students work alongside Italian volunteers in the distribution of non-perishable food items.

Immigrant Aid Organization
An organization in Siena dedicated to helping immigrants find work, learn Italian, find healthcare, and other needs. Students can volunteer in the office offering administrative support as well as work directly with immigrants in need. Activities include Internet research, translations, accompanying people to offices, coordinating interviews, setting up appointments, etc. This organization also operates the Poggibonsi farm/soup kitchen/residence where students can serve.
Population Served: Immigrants
Areas of Service: immigrant / refugee issues & aid / Social services / Healthcare / Administration / Research

Immigrant Assistance Organization
Located just a short walk south of the Piazza del Campo, La Caritas is a Roman Catholic organization dedicated to helping those in need. Though all are welcome to their services, their soup kitchen and used clothing distribution center primarily serve Siena’s immigrant population. Everyone from immigrants from Romania to refugees from Sudan enjoy the warm meals at the church’s daily lunch as well as the services provided by their clothing bank, which distributes local donations varying from books to bed dressings, as well as providing free shower supplies and access to their shower facility.

On a weekly basis, a combined total of over 300 immigrants make use of the resources provided by both the soup kitchen and clothing distribution center. The 90 religious sisters who live on the premises, as well as volunteers ranging from college students to Siena natives, help prepare and serve the daily meals as well as collect, organize, and distribute clothing. La Caritas also functions as a dormitory for women, children, and elderly in need of care and lodging.

Organic Farm and Rural Retreat for the Urban Poor
Since 1995, Il Muretto has leased a rural casale, or hamlet, in the Mugello hills north of Florence with 17 hectares of land and a working farm. The Villore Project seeks to offer a year-round alternative for the inhabitants of Le Piagge and for all those searching for an escape from the city’s hectic daily rhythms and difficulties, from hosting homeless single mothers and immigrants rejected by society, to offering refuge to groups of children from Le Piagge. Volunteers at Villore may assist in the remodeling and construction work on portions of the houses, or volunteer on the farm, which practices exclusively organic and sustainable agriculture. Farm volunteers take part in daily chores, from feeding goats to clearing brush and pruning olive trees, as well as in the production of preserves, honey, and other products produced on-site.

During this service-learning experience, students will be welcomed into a unique community. An integral aspect of this project is that the students will become residents themselves, from weekends to entire weeks, not only working but living with other volunteers and those in need. Through group dinners at the main house and planning other projects and social activities with new friends, students will be exposed to realities hidden even from most Italians.