Fragagnano (Italy) An animator of the Oratory – Youth Center of Fragagnano, in the province of Taranto, of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of the Community of St. Mary Mazzarello – Southern Province of Our Lady of Good Counsel (IMR) – recounts the return to the oratory after the lockdown with the proposal ‘Alternative active summer’, which saw the participation of a hundred children and young people. Her testimony:

In recent months the idea of a normal summer thought and organized in full Salesian style seemed so far away, yet now we have almost reached the end of what was certainly an unforgettable summer for us animators, but also for children and young people who lived it with us. We remember as if it were yesterday, the anxiety and worry that assailed us at the mere thought of not being able to find ourselves in that courtyard, to which we are so close, surrounded by the children we love so much. During the lockdown, we continually thought about the realization of an alternative active summer, which would be able to make children find the beauty of being together, even if with the necessary precautions.

Finally, after months of forced isolation and uncertainty about the future, on 22 June we left the tunnel of monotony in which we were trapped for weeks and we saw the light again, recovering, albeit with great caution, that freedom and lightheartedness that we had been denied. The anxiety for a new adventure to be lived in new ways has inevitably given way to enthusiasm.

Finally, the desire of each of us had come true … 100 children, after almost four months of total closure, crossed the gate of our oratory. It is useless to deny what was surprising, to engage their lively and creative eyes that we had always known and to see them grown, transformed, and almost unrecognizable, given the deep desire for freedom that they hid. The same eyes accompanied us for a whole month, between the morning activities for the little ones from 3 to 7 years old, dedicated to physical and motor activity, creative workshops, stories told; and afternoon ones, for children from 8 to 14 years old, with the usual sports loved by everyone, but designed to guarantee social distancing and with the classic game of the goose that decreed the winners for this year.

We had to adapt, albeit with many difficulties, to the rules imposed by law: temperature control, sanitizing gel, masks, distancing, but we always did it with the right enthusiasm and sense of responsibility, to achieve the only goal that we cared about: making children feel at home again, in the home that goes beyond the usual four walls, but which expands in 2000 square meters of courtyard, a place for gathering and sharing … as Don Bosco wanted…

To further extend the adventure of our alternative summer, we also organized football, volleyball, dodgeball, weight throwing, and running tournaments for elementary, middle, and high school children, because we wanted them to feel involved and protagonists more than ever this summer. Almost six weeks have passed since it all started. In this period we have tried to make children understand that being together goes beyond physical contact and that the mirror of our soul is our eyes.  They are the part of us that remains most impressed in the heart of the other; it is our eyes that let others know who we are and what we feel. All is possible, even at a distance…we can truly become great by learning how to transform a difficult and uncomfortable situation into a new opportunity.

Nathalia – Oratory animator of Fragagnano


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