Ciudad de los Niños (Bolivia-Italy): Documentary Screening and Discussion about Foster Care, Education, and Migration

Ciudad de los Niños: Documentary Screening and Discussion about Foster Care, Education, and Migration

Monday April17, 2023 5:30-6:50pm (Screening) 7-8:30pm (Discussion panel)
Presentation Hall 1040 (School of Communication and Media)


Screening of the documentary written and directed by Flavio Rizzo, Gabriele Scardino, Elena Bellina, and Veruska Cantelli. Produced by Fondazione Patronato San Vincenzo, Bergamo (Italy), 2005 (1hr and 20 mins). In Italian and Spanish with English subtitles provided by Anna Camilleri and Ian Richard.

Panelists (see bios below the film)
Fulvio Diploma (Director, Ciudad del Niño, Cochabamba, Bolivia)
Father Sergio Gamberoni (Director, Migrant Office, Catholic Diocese, Bergamo, Italy)
Elena Bellina (Department of Italian Studies, NYU, USA, and co-writer/director of the documentary Ciudad de los Niños).

Respondents (see bios below the film)
Svetlana Shpiegel (Associate Professor, Social Work and Child Advocacy Dept., Montclair State University)
Arian Craig (Director, Red Hawk Fellows)
Mario Gallo (Director of Admissions, St. Benedict’s Preparatory School, Newark, NJ, USA)

Moderated by: Teresa Fiore (Inserra Chair, Montclair State University)

The Italian guests will speak in Italian and two interpreters will translate into English (Angela Carabelli and Michael Moore).

The documentary La Ciudad de los Niños about an Italian foster home and school created in Bolivia in the 1960s provides a fruitful platform to address issues of foster care, access to education for challenged youth, and migration flows prompted by transnational initiatives of support.

The documentary tells the extraordinary story of Padre Antonio Berta (1927-2007), a visionary man from Bergamo, Italy, who arrived in Bolivia, in 1966 and devoted his entire life to abandoned children. In Cochabamba, he built La Ciudad del Niño, one of the largest foster homes and schools in the country. The film documents the lives of Padre Berta, his religious community, and the lay volunteers who have helped shape Bolivian society during four decades of educational reform, social engagement, and political activism.

La Ciudad del Niño as a project has evolved since then, including with a UNICEF recognition for its innovative take on keeping family ties while providing room and board on the premises. The panel is designed to illustrate the history of the project, its changes over time, and today’s relevance, in part linked to the migratory flows between Italy and Bolivia that the initiative has prompted. The panel also includes a conversation with representatives of local schools and universities about the U.S. foster care system as well as community engagement efforts aimed at addressing socio-economic inequalities and supporting access to education.

Organized and sponsored by the Inserra Endowed Chair In collaboration with the Italian Program (Dept. of World Languages and Cultures), the Dept. of Social Work and Child Advocacy, and the Red Hawk Fellows at Montclair State University. In partnership with Fondazione Patronato San Vincenzo, Bergamo (Italy) and St. Benedict’s Preparatory School, Newark, NJ.

Included in the series Dentro/Afuera: The Interconnections between Italian and Latin American/Spanish Cultures and linked to the research project Memoria Presente: The Common Spanish Legacy in Italian and Latin American Cultures

Short link:


Fulvio Diploma has been General Director of the Ciudad de los Niños in Cochabamba since 2021. He studied Educational Sciences at the University of Bergamo and worked in various educational contexts related to minors and the poor within the Patronato San Vincenzo, a religious foundation based in Bergamo, and the main supporter of the Ciudad de los Niños. He has been visiting Bolivia since 2004 where he has now lived for about 10 years.
He is currently dedicated to improving the child reception system within the structure and to the implementation of pilot programs in Bolivia to promote the deinstitutionalization of minors, such as the foster family program introduced in 2019.

Father Sergio Gamberoni was ordained as a priest in 1999, and worked for seven years in youth education in Italy. Around 2007, he has lived as a missionary in Bolivia, in the city of Cochabamba, and subsequently worked as a pastor of the parish of Condebamba. Between 2013 and 2018 he was the person responsible for the formation of 50 young seminarians and university student in the San Luis Seminary in Bolivia, and he was also in charge of the Bolivian National Association of Blood Donors. In 2019, he returned to Italy: he is now the director of the Office for the Pastoral Care of Migrants (Italian emigrants, foreign immigrants, and people in human mobility) for the Diocese of Bergamo, and the coordinator of the FILEO project (Centre for studies and training on human mobility and interculture).

Elena Bellina is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Italian Studies at New York University. She holds a PhD in Italian Studies and has published on WWII, Prisoners of War, life writing, and migration studies. Her current research investigates cultural production in captivity. She is collaborating with Eleanor Paynter on the third season of A Word on The Move, Cornell University’s Migration Initiative podcast devoted to different aspects of migrations and crossings. A native of Bergamo, Italy, where the Foundation Patronato San Vincenzo is based, in 2005 Dr. Bellina went to Bolivia, where she shot the documentary Ciudad de los Niños (2006, with Flavio Rizzo, Gabriele Scardino, and Veruska Cantelli) to tell the inspiring story of La Ciudad del Niño in Cochabamba through the voice of its founder, Father Antonio Berta (1927-2007), and Patronato San Vincenzo.

Svetlana Shpiegel is an Associate Professor at the Department of Social Work and Child Advocacy, Montclair State University, New Jersey. Her research focuses primarily on the functioning of adolescents and young adults with foster care backgrounds. She is especially interested in early pregnancy and parenthood among youth currently and formerly in foster care, and the effects of parenthood on their socioeconomic outcomes in young adulthood. Dr. Shpiegel sits on the board of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect, and actively participates in several state committees, such as the Prevention Committee of the New Jersey Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect. Her research has been published in numerous leading journals, such as Child Abuse and Neglect, Journal of Adolescent Health, Child and Family Social Work, Children and Youth Services Review, and others.

Mario Gallo left his native Rome, Italy, at the age of 10 to move to the South Bronx with his family as part of a Catholic Church project. He earned a Biology Degree from Manhattan College, and worked in various pharmaceutical companies before transitioning to administration at the Italian Consulate of Italy in Newark NJ. Years later he found his calling and began working at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, NJ., which is known for thinking outside the box by supporting students as they face adversity. Mario has served as the school’s Director of Admissions for over 15 years. Under his leadership, St. Benedict’s Prep went from an all-boys high school to a school including various divisions: Elementary, Middle, Boys Prep, and more recently, Girls Prep.

Arian Craig currently serves as the Student Support Case Manager in the Dean of Students Office at Montclair State University. Prior to working at the university she worked as an Investigator in the Intake department for the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. Arian received her bachelor’s in Psychology from Rutgers University and her Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy from Hofstra University. Arian has many years experience working with families involved in the NJ Children’s System of Care (CSOC) and at risk youth.

Teresa Fiore holds the Inserra Endowed Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies, and serves as Full Professor in the Italian Program, Department of World Languages and Cultures. The recipient of several fellowships (De Bosis, Rockefeller and Fulbright), Fiore has held Visiting positions at Harvard, Yale, NYU, and Rutgers University. Her pluri-awarded book Pre-Occupied Spaces: Remapping Italy’s Transnational Migrations and Colonial Legacies (Fordham UP, 2017, and Mondadori/Le Monnier, 2021 in Italian). Her numerous articles on migration to/from Italy and (post-)colonialism linked to 20th- and 21st-century Italian literature, theater, music and cinema have appeared in Italian, English, and Spanish both in journals and edited collections. She is currently working on a research project initially supported by the NEH: Memoria presente: The Common Spanish Legacy in Italian and Latin American Cultures.” She will teach an Honors class titled “Narrating Adoption: Choice, Chance and Circumstance” in Fall 2023.