Serving the Guests of the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center

Every morning from 10-12 is intake time at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center. Piero, the chief ops person, hands out little hand-printed numbers to the guests in the waiting room area. One at a time they come in and sit in front of Piero’s desk with all the largely low-tech, low budget tools of JNRC administration: computer monitor, Excel spreadsheets, copier, camera, photo printer, stapler, scissors, various forms, and little pieces of note paper carefully torn from regular paper stock.

Some want a new JNRC ID card, some want photos for documents, some just want to borrow a guitar or get a 2 hour WiFi pass. Some are first time guests and need to go through the JNRC registration process, which includes document checks, creations of ID cards, various computer entries and most important, Piero’s orientation to our services. Others have more complicated situations. Perhaps they don’t have the right documents that allow the JNRC to assist them, or are trying to work through some part of the incredibly complex immigration system in Italy.


Piero is the gate, the guru and the glue of this whole process. He brings a wide range of skills, encyclopedic knowledge of the JNRC and the Italian immigration process, multiple languages, and extraordinarily fast motor movements – you should watch his hands fly from keyboard to camera to tiny memory card to printer, scissors, pen, staplers – etc. Most important, Piero brings a compassion for every guest as an individual and child of God, regardless of circumstance, request, language, culture or need.

The day I shadowed him – I got to take pictures of guests lol – Piero told me that it was in his other vocation as a DJ (you can usually hear reggae in background at his desk) that he learned to understand each person as an individual, apart from the labels of place, culture and language. After my shadowing experience, I came away with a certain awe for this work and the overall way the JNRC serves the people who come to us. Piero is a gift to the JNRC, and to all he serves.

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