Humanitarian and Youth Programs


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Religious Youth Service

RYS Builds Shelters,Training Centers and Restores Monastery in Three Cities of Italy

Participants: 110 Nations Represented: 36

Rome, Artena and Palestrina, Italy — The rich history of Italy holds so much of the development of Christianity at its root. Therefore the RYS selected Italy to host its major global project for 1989, with the orientation beginning in Rome. The cultural, historic, and sightseeing programs were outstanding. The educational program guided by Drs. Huston and Kendra Smith offered not only a deep understanding of Christianity but of aspects of all the major world religions.

Work Project: This work service, that lasted from July 5th to August 10th, was extensive, substantial and done with cooperation from various organizations including CARITAS Rome, the Franciscans and FIPSA. The follow-up on two of the work sites (Artena and Palestrina) was substantial, as these programs continued for nearly a decade after the RYS departed.

  1. Rome: Forty participants and local volunteers built a large shelter, which included showers and a changing room to be used for marginalized people who utilized the Oblate Sisters' food and clothing services. Also, the large storage garage was cleaned, painted and restored to become a technical training school for disadvantaged youths from the local community.
  2. Artena: Franciscan monastery - The RYS teamed up with local volunteers and some of the monks to construct a training center that was to be used as a vocational training center run by CARITAS. The center would provide training and income generation for Ethiopian refugees as they waited for their relocation.
  3. Palestrina: The RYS restored part of a monastery for the use of F.I.S.P.E.S., an innovative program for the rehabilitation of alcoholics. The rooms would be used for both medical and counseling staff and patients.


Italy is heavily Roman Catholic, with many charities run by organizations and religious orders connected to the Roman Catholic Church. Cooperation with CARITAS and CARITAS Rome, as well as the Oblate Sisters in Rome and the Franciscans at the Palestrina monastery, was very important in both locating important projects and in the support given to keep the project within budget.

Housing sites were all in properties run by the RC church, a Franciscan center in Assisi, a Catholic seminary (near Artena), the Oblate Sisters' school in Rome. They were in some cases donated or at least offered at much more economic prices than other locations. The project was written up in La Observator (Vatican newspaper) since the Pope recognized the participants at a public audience. RYS received national television coverage. It left behind a strong foundation for IRF and IRFF work which Massimo Trombin and David Fraser-Harris were able to develop. The RYS work laid a foundation for the IRF to open up a European office in Rome.


Advisors: Dr. Francis Clark, Dr. Frank De Graeve, Mons. Francisco Salerno, Mons. Antonio Silvestreli, Dr. Avtar Singh, Dr. Thomas Walsh.


Gary Young: Project Advisor
Nancy Yamamoto: International Project Coordinator 
Rev. John W. Gehring: Project Director 
Massimo Trombin: Project Coordinator 
Drs. Ron and Sherry Burr: Education Program Directors
Dr. Michael and Susan De Armey: Site leaders - Artena 
Mr. Henry and Philomena Thiagaraj: Site leaders - Rome 
Mr. Marks and Margaret McAvity: Site leaders - Palestrina

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