Our stay in the community ‘Il Chicco’ is ending, we are now heading to Turin in Cottolengo hospital.
Although I have written few recent articles from the Ark community, in fact I never introduced the people we were living with. Well, now that we know them better, we can write a bit more about them.
In the creation of this article, Aina, responsible for our house, was a major help to us. Thank you Aina for your help and personal reflection on each of the boys and girls in the Ulivo house!
I especially like this Aina’s thought:
Our boys and girls are a mystery to us. We keep discovering, step by step, drop by drop, who they actually are. Just like a locked treasure. Its shiny all around but we often have no tool to open it and see what’s inside. Our mission and aim is to keep searching for the toll, which will unlock a treasure so we can fully discover its content.
Me and Silva wanted to present them in the light of their special gifts so that we can learn some important life lessons from them.
If fifty years ago many still believed (doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists among them) that people with intellectual disabilities do not belong to the society and have nothing to contribute, we can easily be convinced of the opposite inside Ark’s community. Let’s see how.
Fabio – a man of joy
Fabio came into the community when he was only 6 years old. He is a man of joy. He does not talk and cannot hear, but by observing his facial expressions and gestures, you can quickly notice a special light which illuminates him and all the people around him. Most of the times, he sits on the couch, looking concerned, but still having a smile on his face.
What is it, that he is thinking about? What makes him smile? Maybe nice memories or just enjoying the present moment.
He loves the community, it is like his true family. He loves nature, animals, traveling and of course – pasta. Moreover, he’s an artist soul. You can almost always see him with a toy in his hands, which was remodeled the way he preferred. Socks, bottle, tape, whatever.
He is a member of Chicco Sband, a musical group inside Ark, consisted by assistants and our boys and girls. Watch this video to see the band in action.
Fabio teaches us how to stay happy and content at all times, even at grey and dull days. This is a rarity, almost forgotten by ‘normal’ people nowadays.
Maria – proud with her heads-up
Maria came into the community very early as well, she was only three years old. As a child in the community, like Fabio, she was experiencing a lot of love and attention from various assistants. In this way, she has grown up to a confident person, who can cherish her values. She knows how beautiful she is, she behaves graceful and knows exactly what she wants.
At all times, she holds a toy and cleverly rotate it with her fingers in admiration. She loves the rain and raindrops, especially when the sun starts shining again. Then the droplets shine and so does Maria’s face. She could find a little detail and enjoy infinitely observing it for hours.
Just think how many occasions to admire we are missing in our lives while being distracted by our thoughts about the future and while rushing towards things that we are not even aware of yet.
Besides teaching us how to be present now and to admire little things, Maria is a teacher of self-respect as well.
Lucia – a men heart breaker
Lulu (as we call her), came to the community as a child as well, only 2 years old. A special song is honoring her, speaking of her beauty, separateness and thoughtfulness.
Girl with amazingly strong character, sometimes stubborn. If she is determined not to do something, every attempt to do otherwise by assistants goes in vain. Similar to Maria, she knows exactly what she wants and what is out of the question.
She loves nature, flowers, grass, soil and is a very good observer. Though often seeing her with her head bowed and just gazing ahead, corners of her eyes are watching everything that is going on in the house, not overlooking a thing.
Lulu can’t speak, however she can perfectly communicate her wishes to the assistants.
Another interesting Lulu’s characteristic; with her cordiality, the apparent vulnerability and femininity, she is able to attract male assistants especially. She seems fragile and helpless, even though no one in the community has a stronger and more determined character.
According to Aina, Lulu can tech women especially how to be and stay feminine. This is an important aspect, as in current world, women often compete for levers of power and high positions, thereby sometimes losing touch with their true feminine nature.
Marilena – no sweet talk and pretending
She came to the community as she was eighteen. Often very quiet and somewhat remote, but still, like Lulu, she is perfectly observing and not overlooking any detail.
She enjoys being beautiful, likes to wear some make-up and nail polish and likes to dress like a real lady. She knows about movies and music more than anyone else from the community. She can name you singers and players by heart and sometimes brings her folder with cut out idol pictures into the living room. She is happy to show them to us.
She knows how to express her feelings perfectly and I’d say that her expression of feelings and emotions is what she can teach the rest of us. Without pretending and sweet talk!
Danilo – good old gentleman
One of the oldest members of our community, forever young at heart and soul. A true gentleman, who invites you with his friendliness and bombards you with attention.
He loves music, football matches, sports and likes to read the newspaper. He knows how to perform and entertain. He does not miss the moment, to attract the attention. When Pope Francis came to our house, Danilo was first to greet him: ‘Hey, are you Italian?’ And a little later his famous words ‘Sei Bellisimo.’ (How beautiful you are.) while tugging the Pope on his cheeks.
He loves kids, he can easily identify himself with children and is very patient with them. Otherwise, he loves all the assistants and volunteers. He likes to hang out with them, talking, joking. If he is not able to do something by himself, he always asks for help.
I may say that he teaches us how to accept our inabilities, recognize them and ask for help of another person. Today, when the power and independence are so highly valued his teachings are all the more necessary.
Luca – conqueror with a touch and a smile
Luca came to the community in his sixteens. The man who carries a lot of tenderness inside. Unable to speak, but has an amazing ability to make a person beside him feel accepted and loved.
A touch and a smile are enough to clearly know that he loves you.
Like Lulu with men, Luca can very quickly gain the sympathy of women. Beautiful blue eyes and a smile that captivates and calms. He loves pizza, beer, and good, old, romantic music, like Frank Sinatra. Lulu is his special favorable person since both use a wheel-chair.
Daniele – enough memory for the whole community
Do you remember our first article, when we arrived in the community? We wrote about a boy who took away everybody’s attention that day. Daniele is certainly a man who knows how to make attention and make contact with others. He can give you all his heart away in seconds.
When we arrived, he immediately asked us to write down our names so that he could memorized them. Immediately after, we would have to write down our birthdays as well, so that he will input the dates to his computer and never forget them. Daniele knows by heart all birthdays of volunteers, assistants and other boys and girls in the community.
He is an enthusiastic soccer fan and is an avid supporter of the FC Roma. Otherwise, he’s very capable and very helpful in housework such as cleaning, washing dishes, folding carton packaging. Of course, when he is in the mood.
As quickly as he shows the loving feelings, so does he not hide his anger and resentment. His most popular phrase in such situation would be: ‘Vai fare le uova.’ or in English: Go get to preparing the eggs! 🙂
What can Daniele teach us? How to stop and be attentive to another person. Birthday dates are important! Everyone takes his name and birthday as important, right? And how often do we forget on this seeming trifles?
Riccardo – with music in his heart
Riccardo came into community seven years ago. His life is all about the music. Even when nothing is playing, he hears sounds inside and responds to them. Although he does not speak, he can sing some songs absolutely correctly, what keeps astonishing many assistants.
He is very religious, he likes going to the Mass and you can tell he’s happy while staying at the chapel. Otherwise, being a young boy, he likes beautiful girls (especially blondes). Yes, he has certainly got more fond of Silva than me. 🙂
Riccardo also can be a very stubborn man. When he doesn’t like something, he is extremely difficult to persuade him to the contrary. Special approaches are needed, such as singing his favorite songs, to soften him a bit and sometimes he would do even a thing he doesn’t like in such case. E.g. going for a stroll or eating some vegetables.
Riccardo’s feeling for the music, the rhythm and the ability to hear the music in his heart is for us a very special gift. It teaches us that music is an important part of our lives and personal growth. Do we carry music in our hearts?
Daphne, our youngest member in the community, living here for eight years. She is very feminine, she loves beautiful clothes, polished nails which she is so happy to show to others. Dafne also doesn’t speak, but with gestures, sounds and facial expressions she can communicate well.
She likes small children, nature, sea, fish, pool. When me and Silva took her for a walk along the community she always wanted to take a look inside our garden conservatory. She is particularly fond of plants.
She like to be around people and she’s always happy, especially when meeting people in wheelchairs, whether it be children, the disabled or anyone of our boys and girls. She stands beside them, being happy, relaxed and with a smiling face.
When she is serious and frowned, her face might put off many people. But when she smiles, she suddenly becomes very beautiful and attractive.
What Dafne teaches us is definitely attention to weak. She knows how to approach a person, join him and stay beside him, without any requirements or wishes.
In his 62nd year, he is the oldest person in our community. He entered the Ark when he was 16 years old. He doesn’t speak. Like many others, he is also an attentive observer of events in the house. A respectful man, always asks for permission when he wants something. I remember when together with assistants we were kidding on his account:
‘Very rarely do you see a 60 year old, which asks for permission to take the bricks and play with them.’
He likes the pool and loves swimming. Usually distant from others, but always attentive to every human being. He likes order, things must be kept in place. He is especially helpful when it is necessary to clean up things, classify them correctly, in short, to put things in order.
He loves Neapolitan music, which was assistants’ discovery quite by chance while watching TV concert together. One hour has sat there immobile in front of the screen, closely watching the actions and listened to the music. In the meantime, he has not touched his playing bricks once, even thought these are his main point of interest otherwise.
Mario can certainly teach us something about the order. Ones life should be in order. We are loosing a lot living in our daily chaos. Wasting energy, orientation, meaning, in particular, we stagnate at the same place and do not grow.
Goodbyes are never easy
It was time to say goodbye to the people with whom we have shared our lives for the last two months. We became very fond of all of them and it was even more difficult to say farewell.
The day before, we met with Marc, responsible for community and profoundly thanked him for this opportunity. We handed him an envelope with the money you donated for the Ark community. Once again, this is a big thank to you all!
Time was 1:44 am when I wrote this. In three hours time we are heading to Turin by using a car from the Bla Bla Car portal. We are already expected in Turin and we’ll be in the north of Italy by 10 AM.
Of course, we’ll soon be reporting from the Cottolengo hospital. We already say thanks in advance for your prayers to have a nice and positive experience meeting Cottolengo personnel.
P.S. If you like the article, share it with their friends and acquaintances. We are glad to receive your supports, spiritual and material. This way our journey becomes much easier!
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