New Humanity Movement

Social Harmony and Art




From Veneto to Argentina, the faces and the stories of a great little community in North East Italy.

by Paolo Balduzzi

To get to Cinto Caomaggiore, just follow the road that leads you to the largest town, Portogruaro, which then continues to the North towards Friuli. Or you can go back towards Venice, immersing yourself in the tidy streets between meadows and countryside.

People living in these areas are known for their industriousness, they are capable of producing "wealth" for their entire country.
Therefore, at first glance, nothing new. Cinto is the typical stop-over country town. Then you begin to recognise their faces, to listen to their stories, and understand that the wealth here is from another place.

The treasure chest is opened by Gianni and Rosalia Coltro: married for 48 years, with five children, together with their family, are among the leaders of a very lively community that often takes them "overseas".

But let us move one step at a time. Gianni and Rosalia in the 1970s got to know the ideal of universal brotherhood which, they say "is wonderful!"
They worked hard to build their home and family based on the typical values of this ideal that seeks only the good of others, not only a member of their family, but also their neighbour, a passerby, a colleague, or a friend.

It quickly becomes natural for Gianni and Rosalia to open the doors of their home to their region’s needs: there are those who come asking for advice, who calls them for help. There is one lady who can’t move but would like to receive communion, or simply listen to a word of comfort. Life is like love: simple in its ways, revolutionary in its ideas.

The circle expands more and more, and through the years around the Coltro a large community grows living the joys and pains of everyday life as a family: participating in the events of one another, finding the solutions to the inevitable problems, but then also gathering together to pray, to celebrate and much more. “One of the more notable features is perhaps to look for those who always needed more. Not only physically, but also spiritually. And these instances were not planned, just situations presenting themselves. In the past as it is still today “.

It takes time, patience and perseverance to collect fruits of such radical undertaking, but after 20 years Portogruaro is one of the most vibrant local communities throughout North East Italy. When you get used to living "for the others" it becomes natural to get used to the idea of regarding the whole world as your own home. In fact, for a long time, a very particular attention was devoted to the lives of some villages in South America. "One of our children has been living in Argentina since 1998, looking after some communities of the Focolare Movement there. It is thanks to this direct contact that we can work from here also for those far-away cities”.

It's a job that engages the parish, the neighbourhood, and a bit all our friends. Its objective is the social revival in some countries, often weakened by poverty and violence. Yet the ground is good, it is fertile, as told by Maurizio in this letter sent to his Parish Priest:

Dear Father Carlo,

As you know, for over ten years now I’ve been living here in Argentina, first in a town near Buenos Aires, and four years ago I came to San Miguel de Tucuman, which is a town at the foot of the Andes. Since arriving here I am dedicated to helping a village in the mountains, Santa Maria de Catamarca, populated by indigenous people living in very difficult situations (the poverty that you see in these villages is really amazing), the only source of revenue is the sale of handicrafts made from the wool of llamas, sinews of oxen, etc. The trade of these objects, however, is not sufficient to guarantee them a dignified life and so they get along as well as they can.

Like many in Argentina, San Miguel de Tucumán is a town full of contradictions; you find very rich European-style neighbourhoods, alternating with neighbourhoods of extreme poverty. We approached one of these "barrios". Kids living in the streets, struggling to attend public school (the school is for rich people), idleness often brings them in contact with the world of drugs and theft (and they are easy prey of gangs and criminal operations that will enlist and train them early); along with another friend we decided to form a small football team, the sport everyone knows here; we started from nothing, only with a ball and using a field offered by the village parish priest. The field is in a bit of a mess, there is grass only at the edges, and there are lots of ant-hills and ants bite the feet of the boys, who play barefoot because they can't afford shoes.

What we propose to do, aside from trying to remove them from the streets, is to provide them with some basic education, such as respect for others, self-discipline, honesty, obedience to the teachers. Eventually this will become their lifestyle; these are new things to them and it is not always easy to be patient and continue with determination. With the financial help we received from you last year we were able to buy sneakers and two balls, but there is still much to do.

(The shoes have arrived, thanks to the generosity of a craftsman of Cinto Caomaggiore who offered his earnings for this purpose).

We thought about using the money we will receive this year from Cinto to enrol the children at a local soccer tournament. This involves various costs, insurance, sports equipment and more importantly joining fees for the games. Our dream in the future would be to be able to afford buying a bus, but for the moment we have to rent a vehicle (...) Certainly for the kids the opportunity to play in an "official" tournament would be a cause for great joy, they had put a lot of effort - two years of training. It is also a chance for them to get away from their infamous neighbourhoods and be in touch with the “lucky” kids of their own age. I can assure you that on the few occasions when we took them somewhere else, their behaviour was exemplary and often they were an example to their "hosts" ... a sign that the principles of Christian solidarity that we try to teach have taken roots, a hope for the revival of these villages.”

Recently the community of Portogruaro is investing time and effort particularly on children from 2 to 12 years of age, meeting every last Saturday of the month. The meeting is organised by several people in the community: there are those who prepare the snack, who decorate the Hall, who drives around picking up the kids ... who play football with the children. We know that in doing things for the little ones, the older ones “come to play” and discover hidden talents.

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