Located in the crypt beneath St. Paul’s Within the Walls Episcopal Church, the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center (JNRC) is a day center for refugees in the heart of Rome. We welcome up to 250 refugees and asylum seekers each weekday, from 8:30 to 14:00. Around half of our beneficiaries are homeless, sleeping outside in parks and around the main stations in Rome.
Services offered in the center range from basic assistance to settlement support, as we believe in a holistic approach. On a typical day in JNRC, a light breakfast is served at 9:30 am. Items such as razors, toothbrushes, socks and second hand clothing and shoes are distributed from our Supply Room from 10:15-12:00 pm. English, Italian, and French classes challenge guests to learn and improve critical language skills essential to their integration here. Refugees enjoy foosball, ping pong, and watch movies or news bulletins from around the world. Twice a week, JNRC runs an Employment Clinic, preparing CVs in Italian and assisting refugees with online searches for jobs or training opportunities.
Art, music and psychotherapy programs and legal support are offered to help people rebuild their lives in Rome after the trauma of conflict and/or religious or political persecution. JNRC services seek to address the immediate and urgent needs of newly arrived guests, as well as those seeking to settle in Rome.
The Rev. Austin K. Rios serves as the Director of the JNRC. Day-to-day operations, JNRC programs and fundraising are coordinated by Piero Rijtano and Annika Milisic-Stanley. We also employ two refugee Cultural-Mediator/Peacekeepers, and a cook. Our tireless volunteers and interns are the heartbeat of the center, however. They keep the center running daily and come from all walks of life. Some are refugees themselves, some are college students studying in Rome, Pastors on sabbatical in the Eternal City, retirees, teachers, tailors, therapists, musicians, lawyers, businessmen and artists.