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Hello everyone! Let me introduce myself: I am Nicoletta, originally from Naples and I am a teacher of Catholic religion.

This year I decided to spend about a month of my summer vacation as a volunteer at the community of the Canossian Sisters of Encarnación-Paraguay, making myself available to the needs of the poorest of this world.

I learned about the reality of the Canossian Sisters in Paraguay because a priest in Italy had told me about a bridge, a river and a “dispensary” of medicines where the sisters carried out their apostolate. I never knew these little things but, in my heart, I felt the desire to give time to serve these people. Coming to the place I was able to see that the bridge is actually an international bridge that connects Paraguay and Argentina and that crosses the Parana River; just below the bridge and next to the river stands the barrio Sagrada Familia that is a neighborhood inhabited by about 600 families in situations of extreme poverty, often without toilets, excluded and marginalized by the rest of society, disappointed by those who promise and do nothing; I have seen with my own eyes children, men, women, the elderly and the sick living in wooden shacks or aluminum sheets exposed to the weather, humidity and suffocating heat of summer.

The first time I entered the “barrio” accompanied by the Sisters, a young girl ran towards me to hug me without knowing who I am and where I came from. This meeting marked me particularly and accompanied me throughout the duration of volunteering as it made me understand that the important thing for these people was the very fact of “being”, of “being present” for them, the fact that someone from the other side of the world had come only to share time with them. I understood that beyond material needs, the need of these people is to feel called by name, looked at by someone, to feel reached by a gaze of love that in reality restores the dignity of existence, that despite of everything, they feel they are Children of God.

Those moments passed in a flash and I will always carry them in my heart: playing with the ninety children of the Canossian educational center ranging from three to five years old who are given the opportunity to learn to relate, to have breakfast and lunch, spending four hours of their day in a serene environment; drawing and telling stories to the children of the “barrio” and sometimes combing their hair; accompanying and listening to mothers who bring their children to the health center for health check-up; organizing the selling of used clothes, dispensing food and blankets that were used to shelter them from moisture and cover the cracks in the sheets of their homes; visiting so many sick people who cannot afford treatments they need because it’s very expensive.

In fact, at the health center, more than fifty malnourished children are coming regularly as they follow a nutrition program; The mothers often cannot breastfeed their babies, so the center is distributing powdered milk every Thursday. And so, for this reason the “Health Center” is not only limited of distributing medicines, but it is a “guardian of life”, in which the value of human life is promoted from day one, especially the most fragile.

In this way, day by day, many people have allowed me to enter their homes, to sit next to them, opening their heart to a stranger like me to share their stories: Ika, Nieca, Noemi and her brother Ramon, Adriana … each one has their story, with their own physical and spiritual wounds. These people allowed me to listen to their pain; however, in these wounds I was able to have the living experience of the encounter with the Risen Christ: by telling each other, not to not lose themselves in useless complaints, but thanked each other for what they have, first of all for the gift of life, struggling silently every day to live in a dignified way. I expected to find disappointment, sadness and anger instead I encountered the Joy that is not “of this world”, but is the one that overflows from the simple heart of those who trust in God and experience his Providence, every day.

I feel so emotional as I met the eighteen young girls who live at the “Kuñatai Roga”, that is the “House of young women” where the Canossian Sisters carry out a noble mission very dear to St. Magdalene, taking care of the promotion of women accompanying with love and care the 360 ° formation of girls from the remote areas of the country, who arrive in the city with a great desire to study and work,  but who are often deceived at the risk of falling as victims of human trafficking and exploitation. At the “House of young women” where they are welcomed, they live in a serene and protected environment with the possibility of having a dignified job, of studying, of knowing each other inwardly and discovering their identity and even graduating. Living together, sharing the joys and sorrows of every day, these young women learn to take care of themselves and to realized their dreams to one day be women, wives, mothers, strong and mature workers from the human and spiritual point of view. I was very struck by what one of them confided to me: “I miss my family who live far from here. Every morning I wake up very early to go to work and study, because I hope one day, I want my parents to be happy and be proud of me.”

I want to thank with all my heart Sisters Noelia, Gabriela, Lucia and Ylse for the mission they carry out every day, continuing with fidelity and passion the Work of Saint Magdalene.

I carry in my heart the countless faces I have met in those days; I will never forget the warm welcome that I received from the people of the “barrio”, making me feel like a daughter, sister and mother, in one word “Beloved”.



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