Like one family across the sea
By Giovanna Pieroni
The commitment of Lorenza and her community in Trentino (Italy) to support the projects of the non-profit organization Azione per Famiglie Nuove (Action for New Families) does not stop despite the pandemic and reaches Lebanon and Syria. The latest initiative is the collection of elderflowers.
Lorenza Coraiola is a retired nurse. She says she is shy but to me she seems like a volcano of initiative and generosity. Committed to interfaith dialogue, her passion is to live for others, especially those most in need. Both near and far.
“In our area, in Rovereto, – she tells – there are people of Arab origin. Living close to these families, I realized the difficulties they face every day, not having mastered the Italian language. I support them, for example, in booking a medical specialist examination, reading online reports, enrolling their children in school, looking after the children, when necessary, if grandmothers and aunts have remained in their countries of origin… The various people I am in contact with are happy to be able to help those in need and so we share the needs of all. I am experiencing this, that God intervenes in the life of each person, giving an answer through the closeness of neighbours”.
Syria and Lebanon are in your heart, how does this love come about?
“It started with the Sostegno a Distanza (SAD) of AFN (Support at a Distance) that I initiated many years ago: it was 1990. I had read in Città Nuova (Living City magazine) about the launch of the project in Lebanon. The consequences of the war that began in the late 1970s were terrible. There was a need to support and encourage the education of children so that they would not leave the country and would help in the reconstruction of Lebanon. I felt I could help this project by involving my work colleagues as well. I supported the child at a distance throughout his growth. Today Johny is 40 years old and works in Dubai. Since 2008, I have turned his SAD into support for the ‘Beirut Social Medical Centre’ project, which I still run today.
In what way do you feel part of this family?
One thing I really have to applaud is that over the years there has always been a commitment to send updates. They would tell of the precarious situation, the mistrust, the desperation of the people and the contribution of the supporters that came like a balm on so many wounds. It was a current of love that went back and forth: and this I felt was very important. In the communications there was a sense of attention, the care to make donors feel like protagonists. It is like being one family across the sea. Feeling part of what is lived there, the pain and the hope. The precariousness but also the joy of the children in the care of the Centre’s team, an expression of the strength of life that goes on. To be able to see that hope is also reborn through the SAD of people, that we are in a network of love”.
“Syria is also in my heart. With friends from Trentino, we have been following the events of the Syrian people on the AFN and AMU websites. We wondered what we could do to help concretely in this truly dramatic situation. For a few years now we have been organising dinners, dinners that not only raised money for projects but were also an opportunity to get together and involve Christian and Muslim people. I remember some Arab ladies who made a contribution by preparing trays of sweets typical of their country. I began to dialogue with them and to be close to the suffering of this community of Syrian Muslims. Then, we joined the petition drive to suspend the embargo but then felt great sorrow because the initiative did not achieve the desired goal. Recently, a letter from Robert Chilaud (project manager in Syria) was published on the AFN website, who came to Trento a few months ago and with whom we had previously had a zoom meeting, we felt very close to him…”.
And Robert’s latest update has prompted you to be a promoter of solidarity even more…
“When I read Robert’s letter where he said that people are losing hope, strength, but he gave an example of a time when Providence had lifted and restored courage to a person. I immediately made a personal donation and then I thought I’d share this need of Syria with the Rovereto community: we have a common fund that we use to support a few poor people and to pay for the use of halls for our meetings. However, for more than a year we have not been able to get together so there was a surplus. Everyone in the community agreed to send the donations to support the AMU and AFN’s Syria emergency programme. Each of us has someone next to us who is in need, but we cannot forget those who are so distressed even if they are far away from us.
Was it possible to organise solidarity initiatives even with the pandemic?
“We haven’t been able to hold dinners in the last two years, but last summer a large group of families met in Val di Non for the fourth year running for the “Solidarity Apple Juice” operation, thanks to the support of the “Melinda Consortium”, which donated apples for the production of excellent juices, which were then sold to support projects in Syria. Now it was urgent to think of something else. So we came up with the idea of making and proposing to acquaintances elderflower syrup, a refreshing drink that is very popular in Trentino during the summer. A local shop found out that the initiative was a solidarity effort and decided to do the work for free. We pay for the bottles and take care of collecting the flowers of this plant, which grows wild along the Adige river and in the countryside. With the help of sticks with scissors at the top, we were able to pick the tallest and most opened flowers. The shop had asked us for at least 10 kg of flowers for the production, but I wouldn’t have bet a single coffee that we would have been able to harvest this quantity as the flowering was late. When we weighed the paper bags in which we placed them, there was a total of 32 kg! When the flowering in the sub-mountainous forests is complete, we will make another harvest. Each of us will promote the sale of the elderflower syrup among our acquaintances, as we are not yet able to organise stalls, and the proceeds will be donated to the Emergency in Syria”.