Making New Friends on the Train Ride to Rome

The day had finally come when we said arrivederci to the beautiful countryside of Spoleto and left for Rome. I think it is safe to say we were all a little apprehensive about the train ride; after all it was near the Easter holiday and no doubt would that train be packed. After a few moments of confusion and rushing to our platform we managed to heave our suitcases onto the train, which was of course, packed to the brim.

We said our “Sorry’s” and “Excuse Me’s” as we bumped into passengers trying to eye out the few seats that were left. Finally Professor Harman, Chloe and I managed to find seats close to one another. The train was still moving, making it difficult for us to hoist our heavy luggage onto the overhead compartments. Our struggle must have been apparent because at that moment an old man sitting across from us reached out to help us.

“Mamma Mia!” he said. “Are you carrying gold in this backpack?”

I laughed, thankful that he gave us a helping hand. As we situated ourselves, I finally got a look at our neighbors for the two-hour train ride. The man was probably in his seventies or eighties and next to him sat a little boy who looked about 10-years-old. We fell into a conversation with the usual “Where are you from?” and “What are doing in Italy?” Soon the simple conversations turned into more interesting.

We learned that the old man used to work for the United Nations. He remembered the bombings on Italy in World War II and at one point in his life he possessed a key to nuclear weapons. He knew five languages and had been around the world, although he was born and raised in Rome. He apologized for his broken English, which to us sounded fluent after our stay in a small town where the only words most people knew were “Hello” and “No problem.” He was so friendly and made us feel welcome on the train, despite the annoyed passengers that continued to push their way around our luggage. He only had one grandson-the one sitting next to him-and he was taking him to Rome for Easter holiday.

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His grandson’s name was Matteo and he was learning English at school. You could tell that Matteo loved listening to his grandpa speak English with us, but at one point he wanted to show us his skills.

Matteo took out his English book from his backpack and flipped to the lesson he was on. We all listened intently as he recited a few paragraphs about the United Nations, which was followed by applause from all of us when he ended. We asked what Matteo wanted to be when he grew up and his grandpa translated that he wanted to be an artist.

At that moment Matteo took his journal out and started drawing a picture of Chloe and I. He looked at us intently, taking his time to draw a pretty impressive picture for someone as young as him. He signed his name on the picture and gave it to us. We wanted to give Matteo something back so we wrote him a note that said “Thank you for the drawing. We love it! We will miss you. From your American friends, Naseem and Chloe.” Matteo was so excited to receive this note from us. He immediately took out a glue stick and glued it into his journal.

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I hope that one day, in a few years, Matteo will find that journal and see our note and remember the friends he made on that trip to Rome. I know that we won’t ever forget him or his Grandpa. We finally got to Rome and said our goodbyes to our new friends. It was a great introduction to what would be an amazing few days in this new city.

So next time you are on a train thousands of miles from home, don’t be afraid to talk to the people around you. Although you may never see them again, those are the conversations you will remember for a lifetime.

By: Naseem Amini and Chloe Detrick

AAA goes to Rome!

After our amazing stay in Spoleto, American Activist Agency headed to Rome, Italy. The agency first stopped at the Cittadinanzattiva headquarters where we introduced ourselves and met their entire staff. It was very a special moment for both agencies to finally meet face-to-face. Nervous but very excited, we presented our proposed public relations plan that we had been working on all semester. We also listened for feedback while discussing ways to improve our campaign.

Later that evening, AAA had the pleasure of being taken out to a delicious dinner by our contacts, Antonio Gaudioso and Alessandro Cossu at Taberna Recina. We sampled some of the best wines in Italy and got to meet the head chef. We gave back by giving Antonio and Alessandro a candle to burn over dinner, in addition to a few other small gifts. So after wining and dining with the Antonio and Alessandro, we had to get down to business. Thursday morning all members of the agency were up and at ‘em bright and early and ready for an insightful day at Cittadinanzattiva. Our friends in Rome had an exciting day planned for us, a morning full of insight from guest speakers in our field was in store, and the members of AAA had their pens and paper ready for tons of notes. First to speak, was Francesca Barzini, an investigative journalist of the program “Presadiretta,” Rai3, which is one of the most important investigative television programs. Fortunately for us, Francesca is fluent in English so all of her advice and experiences were shared without translation. Barzini informed AAA of the risks linked to health care communication and gave us a good idea of how a job like hers works in Europe, and specifically in Italy. Second was Mariaemilia Bonaccorso, vice head editor of ANSA Medicine, which is the leading news wire agency in Italy and the fourth largest in the world. Bonaccorso’s job is to report on social systems. European happenings are similar to events happening all over the world, so she reports on the front line of the news, which she explained is   sometimes difficult. She shared that she is concerned for the future of Journalism; she sometimes wonders if students really understand what agency work entails. Bonaccorso recommended that all students get some type of agency experience before they jump into their careers. This way, she explains, they can have the opportunity to work without a security net, which is crucial to their professional development. Students need to learn to find their own news and compose their own stories, she says. AAA assured her that we were experienced and ready to take on agency work in our careers. We also heard from Francesca Albanese, marketing and advocacy manager of Bayer SpA. Albanese will soon move to South America next year with her role, and she shared a little bit of how her job works and what she would be up to in South America.

Last but surely not least to speak was former Italian Parliament member, Andrea Sarubbi. Mr. Sarubbi coined the hashtag #opencamera which allowed the public to check out what was going on in Parliament. Andrea is incredibly skilled in social media and communications. He shared with AAA how to create a successful hashtag, how to successfully devise social media posts, and how to engage your followers. Sarubbi encouraged us to build relationships with our contacts as journalists. He explained that we each needed to be our own individual PR person; know who you are and be confident he said. His experiences and advice were intriguing and incredibly helpful. After our day of insight in the office, we set out for the shops, as any sensible females would do in Rome. We spent the day wandering around the city, seeing the sights and getting charged too much for cappuccinos and cab rides. The next morning we headed to the office again for a “work day” in the office. On this day, AAA worked as a whole in rearranging some of our plan for Cittadinanzattiva. We realized that Antonio and Alessandro w ere looking for more of a social media presence rather than a traditional one. It seems that we may have missed the boat on this initially, but with a few changes and some help from the big guys, we had a new plan ready to go. We finalized some things and said our thank you and goodbyes to everyone at the office in Rome and headed out for our last day in Italy, and we were determined to make the most of it. 486289_10151583326146882_1893546479_n After seeing Vatican City, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Government Building, the Colosseum, and all the other tourist stops, we headed back to Hotel Du Torre to get ready for dinner. Most of the agency had dinner at a beautiful seafood restaurant called Pierluigi. We enjoyed some amazing white wine with our fish. However, while some of us were enjoying a seafood feast, two team members, Rachel and Bethany made their way to the Colosseum with Professor Harman and his wife for Pope Francesco’s first Way of the Cross. After dinner, some members headed to a piazza known for its bars to hang with some locals and sample the local drink fare. We were bugged by crazy salesmen selling everything from roses to dancing cat puppets. The last night in Rome was definitely one of the most memorable and everyone from AAA had a great time that we will never forget!

AAA's Last Dinner in Rome

By Stephanie Rosnick and Toniann Caputo

Benvenuti a Spoleto – Welcome to Spoleto

Spoleto, Italy

Spoleto, Italy

The American Activist Agency was in the ancient city of Spoleto, Italy to meet with the regional office of Cittadinanzattiva and volunteers in the local hospital branch in Spoleto, located in Umbria. We had the opportunity to sit down with the volunteers that make the efforts of Cittadinanzattiva possible and to learn their story on how they became advocates of the cause. Together, we discussed the differences and similarities between the American and European healthcare systems, with emphasis on Italy. The AAA was able to identify some of the more prominent issues that the volunteers face in regards to the daily operation of the organization. Bureaucratic issues remain a salient obstacle for Cittadinanzattiva. Because the issues that Cittadinanzattiva deals with are often time sensitive, delays within the bureaucratic system frequently prevent the spread of information and assistance to the patients and/or their family members.

The AAA also visited the regional office of Cittadinanzattiva and met with several staff members and presented an overview of our agency and our task at hand to promote European patients’ rights and EPRD.

The American Activist Agency with staff members of the regional office of Cittadinanzattiva in Spoleto, Italy.

The American Activist Agency with staff members of the regional office of Cittadinanzattiva in Spoleto, Italy.

Without the generous hospitality of Cittadinanzattiva, especially Anna Rita Cosso, and the city of Spoleto, this visit would not have been possible. We really enjoyed our time in Umbria and look forward to working with the national headquarters of Cittadinanzattiva in Rome.

By Giuliana Napolitano and Rachel Borowski

European Patients’ Rights Day

The American Activist Agency (AAA) has been building a strategic plan to increase media coverage and digital engagement for the Seventh Annual European Patients’ Rights Day. The Seventh European Patients’ Rights Day will be celebrated with an international conference open to the public on May 16th, 2013 as well as additional events taking place all over Europe on April 18th, 2013. The goal of this event is to raise awareness of new healthcare legislation and existing patients’ rights. The expected participation is 180 people. Within this amount there will be a mix of citizens, patient organizations, health professionals and national and regional health authorities.

The event will hold a morning and afternoon session. In the morning session, there will be a round table discussion dedicated to a brief presentation of new patients’ rights in the directive on cross border care and their implementation to a discussion on citizens’ participation. There will be many prestigious speakers for this morning session such as, Gianni Pittella, the Vice President of the European Parliament and Antonio Gaudioso who is part of the Active Citizenship Network (ACN) and Cittadinanzattiva and many more.

The afternoon session will be dedicated to the presentation and discussion of the Active Citizen Network Report on patients’ involvement in health policies. Patients’ organizations and other stakeholders will present their experience in patient involvement, with a particular attention to Cancer Care.

This event is sponsored by ACN, an informal network of patient advocacy groups, including Cittadinanzattiva, based in Roma, Italy. The American Activist Agency will be meeting with members of Cittadinanzattiva from March23-30.  The members of the American Activist Agency will be graduating in upcoming months and will soon be heading into the “real world”. Contributing to an event such as the Seventh Annual European Patients’ Rights Day is an incredible international experience that each member will take with them for the rest of their lives.

By Toniann Caputo

AAA’s Italian Dinner at Long Last Farm

Through the West Virginia University P. I. Reed School of Journalism public relations capstone course, 12 competitively selected students have formed the American Activist Agency–a team partnering with the Italian non-profit organization, Cittadinanzattiva (Active Citizenship Network), to build and implement a comprehensive plan to increase media coverage and digital engagement for the Seventh European Patients’ Rights Day held in Brussels, Belgium, in May. During WVU’s spring break, AAA will travel to Cittadinanzattiva’s headquarters of Rome, Italy, to present our plan.

On February 10, we kicked off our campaign with a bonding event at Long Last Farm, Professor Harman’s home, with a dinner consisting of authentic Italian dishes. Each student was responsible for making her own dish, and we must say it was a surprisingly great success!

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Most of the agency, Front (L to R): Rachel Borowski, Chloe Detrick, Bethany Bloise. Back (L to R): Kelly Suckiel, Stephanie Rosnick, Jamie Kornhaber, Tatiana Schiazza, Kate Smallwood, Naseem Amini.

Please continue to follow us as we execute our agency’s tactics and travel to the beautiful country of Italy!

By Rachel Borowski

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