B. comes from Morocco, he is 12 years old and when he is not at school he plays with his friends « with duck lettuce, crumbs for pigeons and dogs’ excrements ». Fabio is a thirty-year-old lawyer and a volunteer of the “Cappuccini” association, which operates in the homonymous district of the city of Catania to help families and children in difficulty
Have you ever seen a farmyard animal in the streets of the city? ». The one asking this question is Fabio, a thirty-year-old lawyer. He is talking about his city, Catania. But it does not refer to the area of Piazza del Duomo, to the baroque monuments of the historic center or to the areas full of pubs and tourists. Just a stone’s throw from there, in the “Cappuccini” neighborhood, he really saw some farm animals, “right in the street where B. lives”. The fact is that B. is from Morocco, he is 12 years old and when he is not at school he plays with his friends « with duck lettuce, crumbs for pigeons and dogs’ excrements ». It is clear that Fabio is worried about him.
And yet, until four years ago, the two of them did not even know each other. One day they sat at the same table and started doing some homework together. For B. it was a Tuesday of “ordinary” after-school with one of the boys of the association that takes its name from the district, for Fabio it was the first day as a volunteer. He told us: « It was the beginning of a relationship that has always grown and now goes beyond the voluntary-child scheme. It is a relationship of sincere friendship ». Helping children and adolescents like B. to study mathematics and Italian, however, is not the only task of Fabio and the other volunteers. An equally important part is to deliver food bags. This activity, in addition to the one of helping families in need, gives them the opportunity to have something fresh to eat. « We bring the bags into the houses. Over the months and the years, in the fidelity of this gesture, we build a relationship with these families. This is our pass and this is the reason why children are entrusted to us with much love ».
The doors of these houses, which gradually had opened up, showed him the reality that perhaps he was looking for. « In twenty-six years, although I lived in the neighboring district, I had never noticed what was happening in the streets parallel to those that I crossed daily: I had never noticed the tragedy, the fear for the future, the absence of hope ». Initially moved by curiosity, on the street he found much more than he expected: « this experience upset my idea of Catania and its suburbs completely, it opened my horizon and changed my vision of neighbors, of difficulties and also of political and administrative issues; in a non-trivial sense it changed my life ». Discovery of oneself and of the circumstances, but also concrete help to someone: on the one hand to families, in the form of food, listening, psychological and legal help; on the other hand, to B. and to the other children, in the hope of being a friend, an educator and perhaps something more, « while giving them what I received in my turn and showing them something else, my world ».
The ideal objective of this commitment is « to create a bridge that combines first of all the members of this community and then, perhaps, the whole town ». An ambitious idea, and not without obstacles: from « the continuous request for help from families, which also highlights the shortcomings of social services», to the commitment and perseverance shown by volunteers throughout the year. It is only an attempt, of course, but for Fabio it is worth trying, « because unlike the world I knew before, here even your attempt, listening and presence are considered as good values. And their gratitude is palpable ».
Translated into English by Eva Luna Mascolino