AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – — Vicini Americani (VA), directly translating to “American neighbors”, has partnered with various organizations and agencies within the 31st Fighter Wing to bring the installation and local Italian communities together in all new ways.
Created in 2019, VA is a purely voluntary organization in Aviano AB made up of Americans and Italians. Membership includes active duty members, spouses and dependents over the age of 18, civilians, government service (GS) employees, local nationals, retirees, honorary squadron commanders and all the world in between.
The organization’s goal is to create and strengthen ties between Americans and local communities through volunteer opportunities and social events, while facilitating the transition to life abroad.
They work toward these goals by building a strong and supportive shared community in neighboring towns where Americans and Italians live side by side as neighbors, assisting newcomers as a counseling resource as they settle and adapt to the Italian way of life.
“Vicini Americani is a precious and ingenious group, [they are] the right way to be able to bring the American and Italian communities together to enjoy time together, especially in our neighborhood,” said Mario della Toffola, Mayor of Polcenigo. “I am very grateful to each volunteer and will personally recognize their work. »
VA also creates city guides found in the Aviano phone app and other social media platforms with the aim of providing information and helping to explore Italy. These guides also disseminate information on what is happening in the area, places to visit and things to do.
“Vicini Americani is a beneficial asset for the Aviano [AB] community,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Brandon Wright, 31st Operations Support Squadron, Wing Intelligence Superintendent and Vicini Americani Program Director. “Our goal is to promote and spread the message that we are here for everyone and we will help in any way we can to build that sense of community and belonging while living here in Italy.”
Additionally, VA hosts events and networking opportunities such as meet-and-greets, happy hours, and dinners located in various cities around Aviano AB where military of all ranks, dependents, civilians, GS employees , local nationals, retirees and honorary squadron commanders are invited to attend to socialize and network.
“VA’s participation in the Giovani In Movimento summer camp in Polcenigo has given our children the great opportunity to practice English while having fun,” said Oliva Quaia, member of the city council and educational advisor. “I hope we will continue this collaboration over the years.”
Additionally, they partner with municipalities and local organizations for community outreach opportunities with Force Support Squadron, Airman Family Readiness Center, Top 3, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR ), the Spouses Group, the Aviano Airmen Council and more. Finally, they teach English to children in summer camps, middle schools and high schools in towns surrounding Aviano AB as part of their English teaching program.
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids because they can speak English in this informal setting where if they make a mistake, it’s okay because there’s no pressure,” said Daria Gorbunova, director of the Giovani In Movimento Village Polcenigo summer camp.
Overall, the Vicini Americani organization seeks to provide a wealth of resources and opportunities for anyone working at Aviano AB who is looking to connect to the community. They can be found on their Facebook page, where they provide information and volunteer opportunities to interested parties.
“We would like to thank you all. The volunteers are very helpful, very kind and open-minded people,” said Gorbunoya.