Francesco and Covid: from darkness into light
Francesco, a young Italian from Bologna, recounts his own #PillsofHope, an experience of hope during his country’s lockdown.
«I work in the tourism industry. We took a real hit from the very start of this health crisis» recalls Francesco. «In just a few days the emergency measures imposed by the government meant we had to stop or cancel all we’d been working on for months beforehand, with no prospect of starting up again anytime soon. So I found myself at home alone, dividing my days between study and telework, while seeing the collapse of all my plans, with no light on the horizon…».
Francesco was saved from hitting rock bottom by a providential phone call from his mother reminding him to get in touch with friends he’d already been working with for some time in an association called Il Cerchio dalla Libia a Via Libia. This organization runs inclusion, solidarity and cultural projects from their center based at Via Libia in the city of Bologna. «Last year we organized a workshop on legality in Bologna» explained Francesco, «and together we were planning a distribution network for food items». But this time, as well as the young migrant children and disadvantaged people in the locality, there were additional families who’d been brought to their knees by the crisis, parents who had lost their jobs and were in urgent need of help. «So we decided to launch a special fund-raising collection, getting more people involved. The donations of food items and money we received meant we were able to get everyone through those first weeks, which were undoubtedly the most difficult. And this fund raising is still ongoing today».
Francesco works for the deliveries and helping the children who are still living in Via Libia. «Despite countless difficulties due to the public health directives and the small number of people volunteering, it’s a powerful experience of collaboration and sharing». Just before Easter, Francesco was delivering food items to a man who’d originally been almost too ashamed to open the door. «He was so embarrassed at having to ask for help. He hadn’t worked for quite some time and the crisis made his situation even worse…». This time, they had a really good conversation. As Francesco was leaving, the man made an unexpected request: could they exchange Easter greetings, to help him cope with being alone.
«That ‘Happy Easter, see you on Monday’ in a voice choked with emotion behind the facemask, really touched me. I was moved and would have wanted to give him a hug to thank him for reminding me of the power of a simple small gesture». Francesco didn’t stop there. Having shared this experience with other young people, he had the idea of getting friends of his around the world to send greetings, and putting them together in a video. «I sent him the video on Easter Sunday. It included more than 50 greetings for him! You can imagine how he felt. Later, he told me it gave him new faith in himself, which he had lost a long time ago!».
A week later, Francesco received another unexpected telephone call…
«It was the same man, but this time with a really happy voice, telling me he’d found a job as a security guard. He wanted to thank me and all those who had encouraged him through their messages of support. Because they’d given him the strength to start looking for work again. I was amazed because it taught me that whereas material and financial help is important, making someone feel loved and remembered is actually much more valuable».
And here’s what Francesco realized: «I rediscovered how new light can be generated from the dark moments in our lives … and it’s contagious, sparking off a process that can really take us far! ».