Naples-based volunteers rescue orphanage in danger of closure
Stars and Stripes March 21, 2006
With a few hours work and a few coats of paint, volunteers from the Naples-based Latinos Unidos organization and others helped transform a building into a home.
And more importantly, a home that is likely to be around for a while.
The organization’s adopted orphanage, Cooperativa Sociale: Crescere Insieme — Casa Famiglia Favola, had failed a recent inspection and was at risk of being shut down by Italian authorities. (The name translates to English as: Social Cooperative: Growing Together — Family Fairytale House.)
Engineers said the structure needed strengthened walls, a new paint job, and two wheelchair accessible ramps.
So Saturday, volunteers patched and painted.
In time, when Latinos Unidos raises enough money, it will outfit the structure with wheelchair ramps.
The group’s efforts bought the orphanage time, center director Ersilia Crisci said in a phone interview. “I don’t think there’s a danger of us being closed now.”
The orphanage is strapped for cash, like so many other social service programs reliant on tax money, she said. Essentials such as food, medical care, and pharmaceuticals for the children take precedence, Crisci said.
“So for us, it’s very important the help we are receiving,” she said. “And not just the materials, but the community bonds. It’s so important for the children to have relationships with other people.”
The center can house a maximum of 25 children. Currently, there are 18. Some are orphans, some wards of the state for reasons that vary from families being too impoverished or too ill to care for them, to serving prison terms.
“It was a great experience and a great opportunity to do something you knew really mattered,” said Lt. Jeremy Holton, a submarine planner. “You could tell they were happy. During some breaks, we’d play basketball or soccer with them.”
Latinos Unidos is an association that provides a taste of Hispanic culture and tradition, and is open to anyone. When the group asked for volunteers, members and nonmembers alike, 54 people signed up to help.
Saturday, some were out slapping on the badly needed new coat of bright green paint.
“This color was chosen by the orphanage children, as they say it represents ‘the color of hope,’” Petty Officer 2nd Class Monica Baldaramos said.
“We were out there for a few hours, giving back to the community,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Sines, who volunteered with his wife, Tracie. “It was great to help make the children feel better.”
The children scurried to create a “thank you” sign Saturday, Crisci said, to express their gratitude to the volunteers for making their home — and their futures — brighter.