“Opera San Francesco per i poveri” (OSF) is the reality inside the city of Milan that helps people who find themselves in a situation of poverty and need. This institution was founded more than 60 years ago by the community of “Frati Minori Cappuccini” and provides daily a series of services – it satisfies primary needs such as a hot meal, personal hygiene (showers and clean clothes), but it also ensures the right to health through free medical exams and drugs. It can count on more than 1000 volunteers: students, retirees, doctors, lawyers, teachers, people belonging to different contexts and age groups are the essential pillars of OSF.
The International Day of The Poor, that took place on the 13th of November, has been an occasion to remind us the dramatic issue of poverty but also to celebrate the importance of volunteering activities.
Starting from the upcoming weeks Students for Humanity’s members will have the possibility to give their contribution to a soup kitchen of OSF here in Milan, as in the past years. In this article, this experience will be described through the eyes and voice of Daria Fagioli, who took part in this initiative last year.
How has your experience as a volunteer for OSF started? Which were the activities you carried out in the soup kitchen?
“Last year Students for Humanity offered the opportunity to its members to help out in the soup kitchen of Viale Piave during dinner time, that is from 18:00 until 20:00. Even if it is not a continuous activity, that is you can participate just once, after the first time I decided to go on a regular basis, each Wednesday evening.
Volunteers take on different activities during the service and they change their role every half hour. First, at the entrance they are in charge of checking the card required to receive the meal and the body temperature; the next step is preparing the trays with bread, cutlery, fruit, water and so on and, finally, they control and clean tables at the end of the service”
Which are the aspects of this experience that had the greatest impact on you?
“Firstly, the relationship with the other volunteers that I met there, belonging to several contexts and age groups: from students like me from different universities to people engaged in social services, workers and retirees; I was able to establish a connection also with the personnel of OSF: I remember Antonella who used to start the service with a pray and a small reading from the Gospel of the day: she was always able to put it in our context and provide a message.
The guests of the kitchen range from homeless people to elderly men who are looking for not only a hot meal but also the warmth of company, but also young people or workers still in their uniform. I especially remember the first time I spent at the kitchen (volunteers can have dinner there with guests), when I talked with an Egyptian man who worked here in Milan as a doorman. His daughters live and study in Egypt and probably I reminded him of them”
Did you encounter some difficulties or obstacles?
“Sometimes it is not easy, especially at the beginning when you are not yet familiar with the environment and the guests. The majority of them shows a positive approach: they are sincerely grateful for what you are doing and they always thank for your aid; most of them contribute to create an atmosphere of conviviality, where dinner becomes an important occasion to chat and establish social contacts. In fact, one of the main aims of OSF is to reeducate them to live inside society and the dynamic of social relationships. Some of them, however, are living in a situation of deep need and discomfort and they tend to exclude themselves; it is not always easy to approach them: maybe they don’t respond to your greeting or don’t smile you back and at first you may think that you did something wrong.
The example and advice of the other more experienced volunteers taught me how to respect the guests’ condition and deal with them in the best way”
Why would you suggest to other people to take part in this activity?
“Because it gives you the possibility to see mankind in its variety. The environment we live and study in is so different from the reality of most other people and we have little opportunity to go beyond our limited horizon. Last year I talked with people that otherwise I would probably never meet and I heard of stories I would never know about. This experience really pushes you to give the best version of you, to cultivate kindness and sensitivity and value respect and human dignity“.
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