United World Project


“Loppiano Cares”: a city that dares to care

8 September 2020   |   , #daretocare,

The people of Loppiano, the Italian citadel of the Focolare Movement, near Florence, started a new production line during lockdown. Specialising in the production of face masks for the time being, it puts the well-being of the person at its centre, contributing to the common good. It is called “Loppiano Cares”.

Loppiano, about thirty kilometres away from Florence, is located on a picturesque green hill, among vineyards, farmhouses and roads lined with cypresses. A tiny dot on the map for the Italian administration, for the last sixty years this place has been home to an unprecedented experiment of international, interreligious and intergenerational cohabitation. Its “citizens” come from all over the world and are people of all ages, social backgrounds, nationalities, religious creeds and vocations. Loppiano is the first “citadel” of the Focolare Movement, a place in which mutual love is lived out, following Jesus’ invitation in the Gospel: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”.

A new line of production

“Lay down one’s life for one’s friends”: what could this mean in a time of lockdown, when every educational, cultural and productive activity in Italy had been stopped in an extreme attempt to slow down the spread of the virus? In Loppiano, they didn’t even have time to ask themselves the question. In March, the Region of Tuscany asked them to produce 100 000 masks by the end of April, in order to meet the enormous demand triggered by the pandemic. It was a providential proposal for the citadel’s inhabitants: “It was providential because orders to our small businesses had decreased since the end of February, when the global crisis caused by the pandemic started. When lockdown began, we had a problem: how are we going to make a living? What job is there to do? We then came up with the idea of doing something for the common good”. Fantasy, a business specialising since 1965 in textile products for children, and Conto Terzi Loppiano, a business engaged in wrapping, packaging and finishing activities on behalf of third parties, began the production of face masks. “Meanwhile – explains Luisa Colombo, who is responsible with Marco Barlucchi for the Loppiano Cares project – we started a process of dialogue and discernment with the formation centres”. There are ten formation centres in Loppiano, mainly attended by people who are part of the Focolare Movement and come from different geographical and cultural backgrounds. These people spend part of their day working, sharing their talents, thus helping the cittadella grow. “We talked with the schools, especially the gen [the youth of the Focolare] schools for boys and girls and the focolarini schools – says Marco Barlucchi – and found that they had a strong motivation: they were ready to potentially “risk” their health – of course, we fully complied with anti-Covid safety regulations – and that was their way of responding to a collective need, to the needs of a country that, for many, was not even their own. Together, we took the plunge: it was the beginning of a story we didn’t yet know the ending of, but which, we were sure, would contribute to the common good”.

One thing leads to another

Meanwhile, new questions popped up: how to continue? “At a certain point, we realised that the changes to our daily habits brought on by the virus would stay around for at least two years… – says  Luisa Colombo – so we started looking for new solutions, we reached out  to other non-profit organisations that shared our problems, and we started exchanging our knowledge”. Marco Barlucchi adds: “And, in the end, we went from the idea of receiving face masks to the idea of producing them, from a communion of goods in face masks to a communion of goods in the production of face masks: from fish to fishing rods”. Thanks to the enthusiasm and the involvement of many, particularly Felix, a volunteer from Taiwan, the people in Loppiano found a production line that suited their plan. Meanwhile, product study began, guided by the need for quality and cost-effectiveness. The masks arrived at the end of July and, thanks to the enthusiastic and free work of many technicians and engineers, the testing phase was completed.

Loppiano Cares

“We have called this new line Loppiano Cares because care for the other is the foundation for everything we do. This new activity forms part of a wider production line dedicated to the well-being of the person, which, for now, is focused on the production of protective face masks”, Marco and Luisa explain.

There’s Mascot, the mask designed for students and the school environment, washable and made of cotton. There’s MAScare, the basic surgical mask, soon to be certified. Both are on sale on the citadel’s marketplace: Made in Loppiano. Interested distributors can directly contact Fantasy for inquiries.

Masks for solidarity

By choosing Loppiano Cares masks, you do not only support youth and families who come to Loppiano to live an experience of fraternity, you also get involved in an international solidarity project. For every 1 000 masks sold, Fantasy devolves € 1 to the “Esperanza Ecuador” project, assisting the population of the Esmeralda province, one of the poorest in the country, in recovering from the economic crisis caused by Covid.