Turin (Italy) It had never happened before in the thirty years of presence in the territory of the large north-western peripheries of Turin that Vides Main could not open its doors to the children, young people, adolescents, and families who every day cross the threshold of ‘La Finestrella Center’ and the various Aggregative Centers of the Association. Yet it happened, thanks to that terrible virus the children have drawn as a ferocious monster that prevents people from approaching.
The Educating Community of Vides Main, which developed at the school of Sister Angela Cardani, Daughter of Mary Help of Christians of the Piedmont Province of Mary Help of Christians (IPI) who founded it in 1990, and of the Community B. Laura Vicuña who, together with her, traveled tirelessly the streets of popular agglomerations to share people’s lives and bring hope, faced with this situation, felt the risk that the coronavirus emergency could partially frustrate educational activity with the families.
A task force made up of FMA, educators, animators, trainers, volunteers – who in ordinary life are 85 for more than 3,000 participants in the activities – chose, while changing the mode, not to lose sight of any of the sectors in which it operates, indeed to empower them. This is possible through the Network with which Vides Main works in daily life: the Municipality of Turin, the Foundations – in particular Save the Children and the Company of St. Paul – Civil Protection, social services, pediatric and family consultants, hospitals, schools, and recreational agencies in the same urban area.
The activity of these times runs in several directions, because together with education, it is also necessary to deal with the survival of the most fragile families, single mothers with their children, those who had contracts on call or worked in small businesses that today seem to have dissolved into nothing, of someone with a disabled person at home because the day center is closed, and many other cases.
With the support of Save the Children, the Food Bank, the Pharmaceutical Bank, and with the help of many supporters, the volunteers reached with a ‘mobile unit’, the families in their homes, or rather, on the threshold of their doors, to deliver their parcels with basic necessities and baby food, along with some sweets, books, and markers for children and teenagers. Withdrawing the package, the women go out onto the balconies to thank, greet, and show their young children from afar. The delivery is weekly and the families reached have increased with many others, indicated by the Network in which the Vides Main is inserted.
Proximity is then expressed during the week with video calls or WhatsApp, to reach the mothers most in difficulty: many of them live in 35/40 square meters with 4 or 5 children and a husband, with whom they do not always have a serene relationship. They need to be side by side, to rediscover themselves as women and not only as mothers, to feel that someone is willing to walk with them.
The other side is that of the school. Volunteers have access to the platforms and electronic registers of the schools. They spend most of the day supporting the children in carrying out their school work, encouraging them not to give up in the face of real difficulties, because many families only have a smartphone, the Giga are used up quickly, and the siblings do not always contend for them peacefully. Thus, thanks also to Save the Children and the Company of St. Paul, a search was organized in the area for tablets and computers.
The volunteers also created a Facebook page and a YouTube channel to publish videos with educational games, manual activities, dance exercises, hip hop, rugby, and good night fairy tales for the little ones. Through the same channels, they also reach mothers with the ‘Italian pills’ so that during the quarantine they won’t forget what they learned during the courses. For teenagers, instead, they created ‘virtual benches’ to sit next to them and listen to them in these difficult, unpredictable, and sometimes dramatic weeks.
The binomial ‘bread and culture’, seasoned with loving kindness, is the criterion that guides the days of the FMA and volunteers. Being heirs to a dream also means not forgetting that in distant times Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello did not draw back in the face of epidemics and were not afraid of contagion.