I received an email to sign a petition with Change.org today regarding an association that I had no knowledge of. Il Grande Cocomero is a volunteer-run and donation-supported center for research and treatment in the field of children’s psychiatric health. Il Grande Cocomero literally translates to “The Big Watermelon” , but actually is known as “The Great Pumpkin” of Charlie Brown fame, and refers to a movie based on the experiences and innovative approaches of pediatric neuropsychiatrist Marco Lombardo Radice. Now Il Grande Cocomero is in danger of closing because the City of Rome is taking legal action to evict the volunteers. Here is their appeal, which I have translated from the homepage of their website here into English:
The City of Rome is demanding a monthly rent payment which Il Grande Cocomero cannot sustain: €665 a month, up from the €172 paid up until now, with overdue payments of more than €39,000!
Il Grande Cocomero is kept open thanks to unpaid volunteers and small donations.
In the last 10 years we have proposed various technical-economic solutions and have received various empty promises, in addition to the usual “face-saving” acknowlegements.
Now Mayor Alemanno has decided to close Il Grande Cocomero and put an end to a 20-year service.
In more than 20 years of operation, Il Grande Cocomero has been the rehabilitation center for the children in the care of the Neuropsychiatric Ward of the Policlinico Umberto I Hospital, and it has been a social and recreational center for the adolescents of the San Lorenzo neighborhood, a place for free and uninhibited expression of the fragility and creativity inherent in the world of adolescents…and as a response to this, the City has decided to take legal action!
The volunteers, the adolescents, and the entire San Lorenzo neighborhood, in this way, are being violently attacked by a city government that is completely out of touch with the needs of the very areas that it governs.
Closing Il Grande Cocomero will certainly open up a very desirable piece of real estate that the City can offer for a very financially advantageous amount of rent to a restaurant, a night club, or a gaming hall!
We ask solidarity from all of the friends of Il Grande Cocomero, and a strong show of public support on the part of all political forces, against this latest attack on places of child welfare and social assistance.
Interestingly enough, while I was unable to find any official response from the City of Rome or the mayor to this issue, and while I was unable to find any information regarding the history of this dispute, I did find a statement from mayor-elect Marino, just two days prior to last weekend’s mayoral election. In it, he stated “To the children, the volunteers and the workers of Il Grande Cocomero, we can say that for us, for our idea of this city, their experience is an added value that needs to be defended and protected, not a bureaucratic procedure to be used to fill the City coffers.” Let’s hope that this wasn’t merely political rhetoric to be used for electoral gain, although I’m sadly skeptical.
Please join me in signing this petition. I can tell you after living in Rome for nearly 13 years, and coming from a background in social work apprenticeship in state child welfare in the US (I almost completed my MSW but then moved back to Rome in my last year of the program): places of refuge and healing for children with mental health issues are sorely lacking everywhere, but especially in places like Rome, where awareness of mental health issues is not only shamefully absent, but actually still a socially unacceptable taboo that brands those affected with crippling stigma and lack of access to services.
Sign the petition for Il Grande Cocomero at this link through Change.org. You don’t need to speak Italian to support this initiative, “sign” is “firma” and I hope that those outside of Italy are able to access and support this initiative.