Beautiful things happen very often by chance. Actually no – they are meant to happen.
My meeting with the Andrea Bocelli Foundation took place a few months ago. I have a freelance construction business and a mutual friend called me to ask if I wanted to take on the responsibility of following the construction of a school that ABF, along with the Only The Brave Foundation, would donate to one of the municipalities most affected by the 2016 earthquake, Sarnano in the province of Macerata. It was the end of September 2017 and the goal was to deliver a modern, strategic and anti-seismic building by the end of April 2018. I accepted – a bit recklessly, given that at that time the contract with the executing company had not been signed yet.
Thus began a sincere relationship of mutual esteem that brought me to know many of the charitable activities that ABF carries out, with particular regard to the foundation’s commitment in Haiti. It was there that I was asked to go, last February, to view the school buildings that, in collaboration with the local Saint Luc Foundation, had built and were building.
I do not know much about Haiti, a Caribbean island shared with Santo Domingo. I know of the devastating earthquake that hit it in 2010 (230,000 official victims and more than 3 million people involved) and I know of the hurricane Matthew who in 2016 destroyed thousands of homes; I also know that it is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, but all of that was not enough to prepare me for the shock I had upon my arrival.
Haiti is a shame for us in Western and wealthy countries: in the capital Port Au Prince, an hour of airplane from shimmering Miami, millions of children and adults live in rusty tin shacks without water and without electricity, in hygienic conditions that to say precarious does not clarify the state of things. The waste collection is practically non-existent and to see semi-naked children walking barefoot in the middle of the garbage makes you understand in which unjust world we live.
Outside the capital the situation is no better: small villages or isolated houses built with makeshift materials and people constantly looking for something to do to afford something to eat. Here, what has struck me most, is the dignity of the Haitian people: in such a situation of absolute poverty (with a per capita average income of $ 400) I did not see anyone ask for charity. Dignity that you find even in the eyes of children asking only for a caress and a second of attention, eager to give you their wonderful smile.
In this context, the Andrea Bocelli Foundation is bringing a glimpse of light, illuminating the future by partnering with Haitian leaders fighting each day to improve their own communities. With our partner, Fondation St Luc, we are taking children to school, turning precarious street schools into solid and safe buildings where to teach and accompany the new generations towards a job and a better future.
There are currently 5 buildings built and managed, where about 2.550 students, aged from 2 to 16, every morning, some walking on land paths for some kilometers, show up elegant and proud in their colored uniforms.
The commitment of ABF is not only related to education in close collaboration with the local St. Luc Foundation many projects are being developed: the house program (reconstruction of homes destroyed by the hurricane), the program distribution of drinking water (two water trucks distribute about 125 cubic meters of water every day in the most degraded area of the capital) and the most “famous” Voices for Haiti program, 60 girls and boys selected out of 12,000 to compose a wonderful choir that goes around the world accompanied by Maestro Andrea Bocelli, with the main purpose of shifting the attention of lucky people (us) on this forgotten and unlucky country.
“Indifference is a virus that dangerously infects our world” – with these words Pope Francis often reminds us of our duty: if each of us helped one single person, the world would be much better and we would all be happier, because giving and helping others contributes primarily to making us feel better.