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NOBTS alumni wonder what’s next for post-COVID-19 Italy

From their small apartment in an area of Italy hit hard by COVID-19, Steve and Amy Morgan are aware that life around them has changed.

They wonder what life will look like when the quarantine ends. Which of their friends and neighbors will still be there?

Both graduates of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the Morgans work with a compassion ministry food program serving immigrants in need. Before the pandemic, poverty impacted many immigrants who came there seeking a fresh start.

“People come here and think they will have money because Italy is on the Euro system,” Steve said. “But they learn there are no jobs or money.”

As the COVID-19 mandate for isolation continues in Italy, Steve and Amy worry about immigrant friends they have not seen in more than a month. The only trips allowed outside their home are to the doctor, the pharmacy, the grocery store or to walk a dog. Mandated restrictions require that adults, including husbands and wives, appear in public alone.

In Italy’s already lean economy, the job market may be worse once restrictions are lifted, the couple said. Many businesses are family-run, and small, and jobs often went to Italians first, making job opportunities for immigrants slim before the mandated shutdown. Travel restrictions on immigrants make it worse.

“They’re stuck,” Steve said. “Once they arrive in Italy and declare their status, they are not allowed to leave to go to any other country.”

Discrimination was a factor before COVID-19, and many locals shared their feelings openly about immigrants living in their country, Amy said. Sometimes the discrimination is harder to spot.

The couple told of one immigrant friend, a computer specialist who is fluent in three languages but works as a carpenter and lives with 18 other men in a house without indoor plumbing. Another well-educated immigrant friend has been rejected for a position in her profession three times.

As the isolation continues, Steve said prayers for their endurance are appreciated.

“You move into this country to work, to do something,” Steve said. “You have plans and goals. You don’t expect to be locked inside since mid-February. It eats at you.”

Prayers for the people of Italy who are “tired and worn-down” are needed, Amy sad. While the virus has taken a physical toll on the nation, there will be an emotional toll as well.

Amy, who earned a Ph.D. in psychology and counseling from NOBTS, noted two factors that cause events to be traumatic — not being able to escape the event and not being able to make sense of it.

“With all of us home, we’re not able to escape COVID-19,” Amy said. “It’s also harder to get enough space from it to be able to make sense of what’s happening.”

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  • Marilyn Stewart