I Costruttori di P@ce
Some experiences of welcome begin almost by chance, one would say, when we “give our welcome” to an unexpected event. It was the case of Costruttori di P@ce (Peace Makers). While organizing meetings and cultural events, because of one of these “unexpected events,” it set up an experience of welcome for young people in trouble in Florence, Italy.
«Everything came about from the desire to make our contribution to society. So, drawing inspiration from Fr. Tonino Bello and Pope Francis, we set the goal of organizing meetings and conferences, where to use culture and art to open a dialogue and design projects,» This is what Emmanuel Dairo, an Italian citizen with African parents, president of the Association “Costruttori di P@ce” explained us «The trouble was that while we were writing the Statute of the Association, at the beginning of 2016, Mauro, one of the founders, was informed that, in May, on his 18th birthday, a boy who lived in a community for unaccompanied minors would have to go out of the community. Then he would find himself living on the street, without anyone willing to help him».
Emmanuel adds that, in the draft of the Statute of the Association, in the last page, indeed at the very bottom, they were writing something about the possibility of opening one day a self-managed reception center. Such “possibility” arrived immediately, and Mauro decided to welcome Meglis, a young man of Albanian origin, in his house.
«The point is that, after Meglis, a second boy arrived, then a third one… So, Mauro decided to leave his home and to dedicate it entirely to the Association that, thanks to the help of members and friends, was able to cover all monthly expenses and to kick off the adventure called “Casa Oasi della Speranza Papa Francesco” (Pope Francis Oasis of Hope Center)» says Emmanuel.
This special house receives, in a fraternal way, young people coming from all over the world, belonging to any religion of creed, who are living a difficult time in their life.
«Of course, there are rules to follow and there is a ‘big brother,’ the person of reference of the house, on whom you can rely, along with all the volunteers» explains Emmanuel.
The young people who enter the ‘Casa Oasi della Speranza’ have about a year to decide, in total freedom and with the support of everyone, what to do about their own life.
«Most of them are between 18 and 20 years old, and although at that age it is often difficult to choose what to do in one’s life, we try humbly to help them settle down, through a mutual exchange of giving and receiving. We try to convince them that we can trust our neighbor, that we can have hope for a better future». These relationships, Emmanuel tells us, often continue even after leaving the house.
Thanks to the accompaniment of the volunteers, the young guests learn to fend for themselves with shopping and cooking, and to live in a neat and clean environment. They attend classes of Italian language and civics; the volunteers help them in the search for a job or a course of study, as well as in bureaucratic deeds. Young guests include Italians and foreigners who learn to live together fraternally, despite their different nationalities and religions.
With the reception center already under way, the Association Costruttori di P@ce was officially established on July 13, 2016, thanks to the members’ fourteenth month’s salary and a providential donation, while other “unexpected events” soon appeared on the horizon.
«After a year, we were told that we had to leave the house. In total despair and with our young guests who risked ending up on the street, we received a phone call from Msgr. Viola, Prior of the Basilica of St. Laurens and Vicar for the Charitable Works of the city of Florence. He told us that the Parish Priest of St. Laurens had the possibility to rent an apartment they owned» says Emmanuel.
The group of Costruttori di P@ce accepted the proposal, even if at that time their finances were totally in the red, because they were aware that, in the center of Florence, they would hardly have found anyone willing to rent them an apartment. «Once again, a large donation from an individual who had participated in one of our events saved us!» explains Emmanuel.
With the new house, the members decided to turn their cultural association into a voluntary association. «Today, the House in Piazza San Lorenzo, in Florence, is also the seat of the Association and it hosts our weekly meetings, in which we make readings and we share our ideas in view of our personal and community growth» explains Emmanuel.
It was during one of these meetings that, while studying together Evangelii gaudium by Pope Francis, and specifically Chapter 4, consecrated to the social dimension of evangelization, they discovered the spirituality of Chiara Lubich and the project of the Economy of Communion.
«So, our next Thursday meeting was dedicated to her and the Economy of Communion. The stunning thing was that the following night, the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary, the three of us dreamed of Chiara Lubich. In my dream, she hugged me warmly in a beautiful maternal way. The Vice President had a dialogue with her in which she answered all her doubts regarding her faith. In the Secretary’s dream, she was telling him: ‘Put Jesus in the very center’. This discovery was an incentive to move forward, despite all the difficulties we had faced and those that were still awaiting us!».
But there is more. As one of those biblical dreams full of human promises, this discovery generated in the young volunteers and in the “Pe@ce makers” the desire to create a business and a company that follows the principles of the Economy of Communion.
«We wanted to establish it in the center of Florence, because this city for its history and its nature has always focused on openness and support of others. We started to study and gather ideas, always open to get to know and include any person who has the desire, even in an entrepreneurial perspective, to implement a new way of doing and understanding the economy, and to provide a service focused on the human person,» Emmanuel points out with passion «At the moment, we have many projects in the pipeline, but we understood that in order to start off, we must begin from the reality that surrounds us, and everyone should give a small contribution, even with a little bit of ’recklessness’, having faith in the Providence that in the past two years has always accompanied and guided us».