U.S. Department of State's Partnership with the National Italian American Foundation Assists the University of L'Aquila in its Earthquake Recovery

Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 17, 2010

The U.S. Department of State joined forces with the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) in a public-private partnership to bring a generous American response to the people of Abruzzo, Italy, in the aftermath of the devastating April 6, 2009 earthquake. The focus of this partnership has been to direct aid to the University of L’Aquila and restore its role as an important academic, social, and economic engine for the Abruzzo region. In the year since the earthquake, this partnership has generated a number of projects that have helped restore the University of L’Aquila:

Adopt-a-Scholar: NIAF worked with several U.S. universities to provide scholarships for the students of the University of L’Aquila who were displaced by the earthquake’s damage. NIAF formed partnerships with the University of Miami, Sierra Nevada College, the College of Staten Island, and the University of New Mexico, among others, to offer full tuition and room and board scholarships for the students of the University of L’Aquila to have the opportunity to study at one of these American universities. More than 100 students applied. Over the past year, 52 students from the University of L’Aquila have benefited from the scholarships (23 for the full academic year; and 29 for the Fall 2009 or Spring 2010 semester). The scholarship packages’ total value was over $1.5 million. The program will continue as additional University of L’Aquila students will benefit from scholarships in Fall 2010.

Building an Earthquake-Resistant Modular Multipurpose Center: NIAF together with the State Department and the University of L’Aquila have assessed the university's building needs and have determined that a permanent construction of a modular dormitory will be built in the coming months for the value of $250,000. NIAF and the University of L’Aquila have signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding this project.

University of L’Aquila / Capacity-Building in the Mental Health Field: A State Department grant was given to the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma (HPRT), which hosted a four-day workshop for a team of five mental health professionals including the head of the Psychology Department of the University of L’Aquila’s School of Medicine, and the Director of Family Medicine (Federazione Italiana Medici – Medicina Generale Abruzzo). An additional State Department grant will support the Harvard Program with the training of all mental health practitioners in the Abruzzo region in order to diagnose and treat the long-term effects of the earthquake. This is scheduled to take place in L’Aquila at the end of September 2010.

Exchanges to the United States: Six local government and University of L’Aquila leaders traveled to the United States in September 2009 under a State Department exchange program (IVLP) to visit academic and non-academic institutions experienced in disaster recovery and university development. Another State Department-sponsored exchange program brought University of L’Aquila department heads to San Francisco and New Orleans to examine how American universities have coped with rebuilding after a natural disaster, and their links with the private sector and local governments. The meetings with U.S. academic interlocutors have laid the groundwork for future independent exchange agreements between the University of L’Aquila and the U.S. universities. In April 2010, a special initiative on volunteerism brought a volunteer from the Volunteer Support Center of the province of L’Aquila to the United States to participate in a multi-regional International Visitor Leadership Program.

Exchange to Italy: The U.S.-Italy Fulbright Program is supporting a Fulbright Specialist at the University of L’Aquila. The specialist -- who holds an MBA and has expertise in aiding disaster impacted businesses -- is assisting the University in building capacity so that it can be a stimulus for restoration of economic development in the area. The specialist, who is currently the Executive Director of the Louisiana Business and Technology Center, will present lectures, consult, and perform a needs assessment with the goal of assisting the University to: 1) plan for the establishment of a sustainable business incubator, 2) develop strategies for recovery of disaster impacted businesses, and 3) promote new business startup. The specialist will also consult with the local governments because of their leading role in the reconstruction and in fostering economic development. He will be in L’Aquila a total of 42 days, departing mid-June 2010.

English Language Teaching & Learning: A State Department grant to TESOL-Italy (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) was given for a pilot project in Abruzzo targeted at schools serving displaced students from L’Aquila. This project included the acquisition and distribution of Italian text books of English for the primary, secondary and university levels, and supported seminars, talks, and e-tutoring with educators in Abruzzo in order to make effective use of TESOL materials. The members of TESOL are volunteering their time to support the educators in Abruzzo. In November 2009, a group of 22 secondary school teachers of English from L’Aquila and surrounding areas attended the annual TESOL conference in Rome on Multiplying Voices. TESOL distributed English teaching materials that included a book by keynote speaker Dr. Janet Zadina, who returned to Italy a few months later to work more closely with the teachers from Abruzzo.

Preserving Archives: The State Department brought an expert archivist from the United States to perform an in-depth assessment of information resources in L’Aquila and to evaluate the needs of various libraries in L’Aquila, including digitalization of records. As a follow-on, the State Department also funded a University of L’Aquila archivist/librarian’s participation in a regional conference on the digitalization of cultural heritage.

Donation of Information Resources: The State Department donated information and reference materials to assist L’Aquila’s public libraries and school libraries. One contribution included giving 5,000 dictionaries for English learners that are being distributed to all high school students in the earthquake-stricken area.

Fine Arts Curator: The U.S. Embassy has offered its experienced curator/conservator to the University of L’Aquila for the period of one month to assist the university in an art inventory or restoration project to help assess its art collection and any damage to the art caused by the earthquake.

Summer Activities for Youth: The State Department supported projects in the summer and fall of 2009, undertaken by civil society groups in Abruzzo, to engage youngsters in the many tent camps with recreational activities, such as sports and games. In particular, U.S. Embassy Rome worked with the Italian Civil Protection Agency and the Italian National Basketball Federation to provide a basketball day camp for 130 young people affected by the earthquake. The reaction of the youngsters, aged 6-12, on "graduation day" showed the program’s value in helping to bring joy back into the lives of earthquake victims.

PRN: 2010/639