“Lady, where are you from ?”

“Will you sign against drugs?”

“Do you speak English?”

They are located at busy intersections of Venice, in twos or threes. They hold clipboards, and ask you to sign your name to their anti-drug message. If someone signs, they then ask for a donation.

I had always found them vaguely threatening and tended to rush past them without making eye contact.

Then my landlord and I passed a small group of them near San Vidal, and I asked him about them. His standpoint was neutral. He wasn’t sure about giving them money, but he would give them the time of day.

So, I had an attitude shift, and the next time I saw them, I stopped to talk to one of them. She was one who had often tried to stop me in the past, and had always struck me as quite aggressive, and to be honest, she scared me a little. How wrong I was. She proved friendly and willing to tell me about herself and about the organisation they represent.

She said she had been a heroin addict, and with the help of this institution “Lautari”, she had been rehabilitated, 4 years ago. The young man with her related a similar story.

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As far as I can determine from speaking with them, looking at the leaflet they gave me, and from their website www.laurari.it , they have 6 communities throughout Italy, including Rome and Florence. It seems that the organisation works with individuals and families to rehabilitate and reintegrate drug addicts. It also appears to be a legally registered business, and the donations are tax-deductible.

Their presence on the streets in various cities is part of the reintegration process (and I’d guess, a way to pay for the treatment they have received). Boy, if they can put up with the daily rejection and scorn from the passers-by, they’re well on the way to self-confidence.

Are they genuine? I still don’t really know.

Are they human beings? They most certainly are.

24 Comments

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24 responses to ““Lady, where are you from ?”

  1. I can never get the better of you, my dear amico! :-)

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  2. Hi Yvonne :D The Costa del Sol, Spain, is full of scams so I only give where I can really see it is needed. Ralph xox :D

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  3. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Phil. I couldn’t cope with the rejection they experience every day!

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  4. PhilJ

    Great post Yvonne. Venetian friends tell me that they are legitimate, but their method of pulling you in can seem a little aggressive. The trouble is that “Please sign against drugs” is just meaningless, but it is at least a snappy slogan that can easily be reeled off in multiple languages if you want to make a quick ‘sale’. So it sounds like a scam in a way that “please sign and contribute to our drug rehab charity” doesn’t. They’re an ok bunch though. The ones we know will give us a wave and say ciao; and the ones we don’t are fine if we just say we’ve signed already. They can seem a bit “in your face” but I don’t think they’re bad people.

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  5. The worldwide “war against drugs” is really a war against the people who choose to use them, imho.

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    • That puts a totally different slant on the conversation, Arthur. I confess I’ll have to sit and think about it. I think I understand what you mean, but I’m not sure if I’m interpreting you correctly!

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  6. Now I feel horrible. I was also approached near San Vidal and the woman asked me if I spoke English. I said No. If I spoke Italian. I said No. If I spoke Spanish. I said No. French. No. Tired of me she finally asked: “So what do you speak, Mister? I said Chinese and walked away.
    Thanks Yvonne for taking the time to talk to them and humanize them.

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    • Daniel, I was exactly like you, for many years. There’s no need to feel horrible. We have to make a decision in such a short time when they approach us. But, if they are genuine, how I’d love to spend some time working on a different approach.

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  7. You have identified the most important point: they are and remain persons.

    Very interesting post.

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  8. Yvonne…thanks so much for taking the to find out about this organization!!
    It gives me an entirely different view….and much closer to the truth than my ‘imaged’ truth.
    Once again, Yvonne, you are a gem!!!

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  9. I first encountered this group (obviously different people) in Florence, in 2009. They used the same words then, so maybe it’s been proven to work.

    I’m truly grateful that I’m not on the other side of the fence, figuratively speaking.

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  10. One of the ladies approached me my last visit and I did talk to her but explained that I do not sign petitions, no matter how valid the cause. I do that here too. I just don’t sign….it’s a personal thing with me. Usually when approached I don’t have time to read what I’m signing and I’m a firm believer in reading the “fine print” of anything I sign.
    I’ve never felt intimidated by them but then in my working career I spent a lot of time with drug addicts.
    Maybe the “will you sign against drugs?” is an easier way of getting signatures than taking time to explain what they really need is people to support the rehab services their organization provides.
    Ah, well, it is against my values to give money to “beggars in the street” be they pan handlers in Seattle or someone with a cause anywhere. I save my charitable contributions for legitimate organizations that I can verify.
    I have been known to give my “doggie bag” from a restaurant to pan handlers though….in fact I was once asked for my food as I was leaving a classy restaurant in downtown Seattle. I gladly gave the hungry man my leftover pasta.
    Good for you for taking the time to talk to her and get more information.

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  11. If this organisation is legitimate, they could consider changing their approach and making it clear that we are signing to not only protest re: drugs, but also in support of their rehabilitation program.

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  12. Bert

    I wonder what good it could possibly do to “sign against drugs”. The government of Italy and any other country does not need to see a million names on paper to know that drugs, in general, are a bad thing. They do not need to be told that most people are “against drugs”. Governments all over the world are doing whatever they think is best in the “War Against Drugs”, even if that includes legalising some drugs.

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  13. Andrew

    I signed the first time I was approached. The next time I tried to find out more and the person I was dealing with got quite ‘iffy’ when I said it was difficult to discover if it was a bona fide organisation. Now when collared I just say I’ve already signed.

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    • Same here, Andrew. I still have no idea how genuine it all is. But, I’m not intimidated any longer.

      Evviva, ha comminciato Carnevale. There are lots of mini-Pricipesse and Spdermen running around, and I saw the Nordic Walkers in long capes and masks, walking in Santa Croce. This evening, it’s all happening in Cannaregio. Yippee! :-)

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