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The second part of the interview to Daniela Mori.


By Paolo Balduzzi- Florence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why is a commercial enterprise such as Coop, which is normally interested in sales, taking an interest in the sufferings of others?

“This is because this is the natural way of acting of our clients, the Florentines. The idea is to promote a culture of solidarity through many concrete actions, and also through the witness of persons who live in the poor areas of the globe. We keep in close contact with many who are dealing with difficult situations in other countries. We do this through visits organised for our members and even school groups.

You did visit some of these countries. What happens?


“My first trip was to India. There, in conjunction with the Franciscan Sisters of St. Elizabeth, we replaced many huts with brick houses. We also donated some dowries for the poor girls who otherwise could not get married. On the convent grounds we built a shirt factory where more than 160 women work for a just wage. Also, besides the factory we set up a dispensary. A couple of the nuns came over to Florence to witness to our members and the public at large what has been happening at their place. These meetings help people to come together, and reciprocity among those involved is created, enhancing the material, human and social aspects”.

What are the effects that these many activities leave on Florence?


“Without any doubt, all this makes our citizens feel a sense of belonging. Indeed, the project We with the others’ was started with this objective. If ten years ago the challenge was to bring together the lay and Catholic organizations, now the challenge is different. There is a lack of values, especially in the younger generations, and this has led to many incidents of intolerance. I must admit that doing ‘active resistance’ is much more demanding. We wanted to reach out to the younger generations and involve them as much as possible in our projects. Daniela-Mori_ok

That is how ‘We and the others’ came about: we used to visit schools to offer them our experiences. This was followed by organized trips for school groups to the poor countries where we were acting, like Cameroon, Burkina Faso, etc. These trips have helped our young people to widen their horizons and to enhance their sense of respect and solidarity. Moreover, these trips have shown that reciprocity is a fundamental value for our society. This project is in its forth year, and the young people that took part in the first trip have set up an association called ‘Change of mentality’. This give us hope that, after all, the young people are sensitive, and they do try to change their mentality. They are still in contact with the places they visited”.

The idea one generally has of young people is that they are superficial. Is that so?

“Many young people seem to make transgression a way of life. These trips leave a deep mark on the young people: they acquire a new awareness, and they influence their peers, thus giving the city a new way of life”.

Therefore, there is hope for change.


“Certainly. By questioning their way of life, and by putting in perspective their needs when compared to those of others, people become better. I am totally convinced that our projects help to sustain a cultural ‘humus’ that could promote better values than the ones we see around us today. If we want to adapt to what our current society proposes, we need only to be cunning and run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. However, if we want a better society, we need to give other and higher values to our young people. We should always aim higher and higher”.

This entails some degree of risk, doesn’t it?


“When important decisions are taken, the ensuing results can never be gauged accurately. We are convinced, however, that our commitment would eventually promote a certain culture that would influence the city, and, indirectly, the whole world. Young people do influence other young people, and that is how new ideas are spread”.

What does managing these projects mean to you?


“I rediscovered things that I had forgotten, and I acquired the capacity to know myself through the others, by allowing my ideas to be challenged. In everything that I do with the others, there is a great thrust that comes from mutual sharing, and the yearning to do our best. This is an experience that made me see my life and my values from a different perspective. The trips and the contact with poor people have taught me what my priorities should be. I could say that this has been the experience of all my collaborators: they had the chance to ‘stop’ and to re-evaluate their lives and the place where they live.

That means Florence. What do you wish for this city?

“In spite of its international fame, Florence risks remaining a provincial city if it does not open itself for dialogue as it did in the past. This city has a lot to offer to the world; however, it is almost always engaged in polemics. This are not necessarily a negative thing, because through discussions new ideas come forth. Yet, Florence could be as it was in La Pira’s time, when it re-activated its international vocation for dialogue, tolerance and the acceptance of those who are different and the downtrodden; indeed, this had given Florence an international respectable status, which rendered its treasure even more precious. Our projects and work can give a valid contribution towards this dialogue.”

(the end)

Read the first part of the interview

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