Safety and work: in Milan, Saman and Aina found what they were looking for

With the help of Fondazione Azimut, AVSI started a job placement project for unemployed mothers in the area of Corvetto, Milan.

Countries Italy
Date 06.12.2022
Author Luigi Baldelli, photographer and journalist

Thanks to a project funded by Fondazione Azimut addressed to ten unemployed women and mothers, Aina and Saman received vocational training and started an internship in Milan. The photos shot by Luigi Baldelli tell us their story.

In 2021, AVSI launched the project “Employment support for disadvantaged women and mothers in COVID times”, involving ten women from the neighborhood of Corvetto, one of the most disadvantaged areas of Milan. The main aim of the project consisted in helping them find a job, therefore they received support in the form of training and internships.

This action was funded by Fondazione Azimut, that has been working with people in precarious economic conditions for over ten years.

Such vocational training courses and internships have been provided to women of Italian and foreign origin (including second- or third-generation), migrant and refugee women.

Saman’s “special” restaurant

Saman (invented name) is a young Southern-Asian woman and a single mother. She takes care of her two children and works five days a week in the kitchen of a "special" restaurant in Milan. While taking out of the oven some spinach-stuffed cakes, she explains why it is called so: “This restaurant provides food to those who are in financial trouble and cannot even buy food. This is why it is so "special" and I’m incredibly happy to work here”.

Saman has a complicated past and has been living in Italy for many years, "though I still don’t speak Italian very well" - she tells us - "I have worked as a caregiver and cleaning lady." Now, she's been working at the restaurant for a while. In the kitchen, she moves fast, checking the pots on the stove and grabbing things from the refrigerators.

I would really like to learn how to cook Italian dishes well. Here I'm already picking up so much.


She washes the lettuce, prepares a sauce, sets the tables for guests, always under the main cook's watchful and caring eye, who gently follows her every step. After lunchtime, Saman cleans up and then takes her kitchen cap off, freeing her jet black hair tied back in a long braid.

It’s time to go home, a safe place. In a bright room, we see three beds: "this one is mine, these two are my children's. Here we can live safely and peacefully, we have everything we need, especially the affection of the people who are hosting us and live here, too."

Photos and drawings are hanging from the walls. The sun lights up a small desk full of books, pens and notebooks. "This is a place where I can live and raise my children in a safe and dignified environment, that's what matters the most to me." She then glances at the clock and tells us she needs to go. It’s time for her to pick her kids up from school and then she would like "to have a walk in the park all together and play with them." She says bye to everyone and sets off quickly, proud and happy of her new life.

A chance for rebirth in the hotel industry

Aina (invented name) was born in a country overlooking the Red Sea. She has been living in Italy for several years and has been working as a housekeeper in a hotel in Milan for a while. Just a few days ago, she got great news: her contract has been made permanent.

"I can only say thank you. I'm grateful to those who helped me and gave me this chance. Thank you to my colleagues." She’s happy and you can see it in her eyes, nevertheless such a great news doesn’t distract her from her job: she keeps on cleaning and carefully preparing the rooms for the hotel guests.

She does a thorough job: she takes away the used towels, cleans even the smallest corners of the room, changes the sheets and checks that the fresh ones are perfectly tucked in and wrinkle-free. "I want our guests to find everything nice and clean when they walk in. After all, this room will be their home for a while."

A colorful scarf frames the sweet features of her oval face as she checks on her phone the rooms that need to be cleaned. She speaks with Alena, her Eastern European co-worker, in order to better organize their job. Then, pushing the cart full of clean linen, she stops in front of room 122 and knocks gently on the door before opening it. “No answer, I can go in” she says smiling.

I want our guests to find everything nice and clean when they walk in. After all, this room will be their home for a while.


She tracks methodically the timing of her work, knowing that soon new clients will get into that room: "I want to do my job well," she tells me as she arranges the pillows on the bed, delicately and precisely, "out of respect for the guests and out of respect for those who gave me this job."

The sun filters through the window and illuminates her hands, where a small, thin ring adorns her index finger. When she's done, just before leaving the room, she takes one last long look around to check that everything is okay. "Yes, everything is perfect," she says contentedly as she turns off the light and closes the door.