15-08-2019 by Freddie del Curatolo
Thirty-five years ago an Italian doctor on holiday in the land of the Samburu was struck by the virgin beauty and humanity of those desolate lands without any contact with civilization.
After a few years, Pino Bollini, a Milanese surgeon with numerous specializations and experiences in his homeland, moved with his wife and two children aged 8 and 10 to Laisamis, between the border with Ethiopia and the magical nothing.
In 27 months he delivered a small but complete hospital to the Diocese of Marsabit, regularly recognized by the Government of Kenya and still operational today.
"The first sensation of Africa that overwhelmed me was disbelief - he says - The man had already been on the moon for 20 years and when I told it there, they laughed believing that I was joking. On that first trip I saw young people doing somersaults of joy after giving him only a little water; but I also saw him die of dehydration; of hunger, of tetanus... I remember a twin birth where the first was born in a hut in Maralal and the twin saw the light a few days later more than a hundred kilometers away at the hospital in Wamba, where they had brought her out of despair, with the hope of help, which they found. She survived, as did Laisamis, without an incubator, even newborns of less than 900 grams.
It was like finding yourself in a film and touching with your own hands the indomitable force of life. Then also the defeats, the disillusions...maybe it would be better not to remember everything. Take away my memory and I would do everything again, but if you leave me the awareness of how much it has required to arrive until today, I don't know if I would have the strength and the courage to start again".
After some experiences in Guinea Bissau and Sudan in 2000, Bollini also experienced the extreme situation in Somalia, working among other things with Blessed Sister Leonella Sgorbati who will be killed there.
"Here is a person I could never forget - admits Bollini - Everyone knows what Somalia was in those years and what it is still today. I think that the last ones in this world, are precisely those who live in similar situations, including wars, where the "volunteer-pure", for "reasons of force majeure", is often unable to help them in a significantly decisive way. Who is really on the side of the last? Who has no interest in being there.
Thus was born the Sololo Project, managed with the NGO CIPAD to prevent the phenomenon of "street children". From doctor to missionary: Italian has been the only "mzungu" who works there for fifteen years, for the rest it is totally managed by local people. Sololo is the land of Borana shepherds, a semi-nomadic population that moves according to the water and pastures, crossing arid areas and real deserts.
For years, it has been an unsafe area plagued by tribal clashes, with a high risk of infiltration by elements linked to Somali terrorism. Moreover, climate change in recent years has further brought the population to its knees. On the other hand, the asphalt road completed in 2016 has improved connections from Nairobi (which is 800 km away) and decreased banditry. However, the local population lives in the balance between marginalization and the distorted temptations of modern times.
In this context, CIPAD tries, through assistance, health care and the psychological aspect first and then education, to help these people to get out of the idea of the ineluctability of their misery.
"We take care of orphaned and vulnerable children by providing them with housing, food, clothing, health care and study - explains Bollini - which for the most deserving goes up to the degree. Some former students supported by CIPAD are now graduates and in full career. One of them, born in the most remote savannah, was in Vienna with administrative assignments at the Kenya Embassy. Only a few years ago Borana who went to the south of the country said "I'm going to Kenya" meaning that he would pass Isiolo 500 km from Sololo. At the time Isiolo was considered the southern border of these desert and semi-desert areas. Official data from a few years ago show that 70 percent of this population had a per capita income below the poverty line, internationally recognized in a dollar. According to our calculations, even with less than half. Despite this, they lived; this proves that their traditional model did not need money to be able to maintain itself. Perhaps measuring wealth with money is not the right tool. The solidarity of the group, received by the individual only if deserved, in certain extreme contexts such as that of Sololo, is winning even where the individual underlies. In this sense, the Sololo Project works because it is born from their problems, to solve them with solutions found by themselves.
To have set up a Kenyan NGO that makes them both beneficiaries and managers of choices is a winner. It can be said with certainty that the project assists the "last of the last" and does so through the same last".
A few numbers: 92 families currently assisted, 253 minors supported, 15 workers, more than a thousand people benefited in total or in part by the project through scholarships, social assistance, food, housing and health. Thanks also to the great work of Bollini in finding the necessary funds to keep Sololo going.
"At the moment it is unthinkable, given the type of beneficiary and context, to be able to structure on site sources of livelihood that ensure the complete economic self-sufficiency of the Sololo Project - confirms the Italian missionary - As a result, the project is destined to go out in the absence of an adequate economic livelihood, albeit objectively minimal. Currently, our fundraising is limited to two-thirds of what would be necessary. Our reserves now allow us to reach more or less the end of this year then, except for unforeseen economic aid, we will be forced to reduce the interventions of the project. The total cost of the project, excluding construction and extra costs linked to famine, is on average around EURÂ 160 per person per year. A modest amount, considering everything, but difficult to put together with the sole support of friends and private benefactors. Even a few, very few euros, make the difference for someone. The world of individuals does not change for the better with slogans or violence, even if only verbal and perhaps dictated by prejudices, but changes with the facts and these facts are mostly small and apparently insignificant, as the donation of a few euros to CIPAD, far away and unknown African NGO. Moreover, unfortunately, when large humanitarian organisations lack transparency and cause discredit, this also falls on small and very small organisations such as ours. When the big ones exaggerate with their propaganda information, they cloud us. They can even unintentionally turn us off when they deprive us of funding with their powerful campaigns that even appeal to small donors who are the only ones we can still appeal to.
Helping Bollini and the Kenyan land in which he operates today means at the same time coping with emergencies such as drought famine, but also continuing to help children through remote support. But it also means marrying a philosophy of solidarity that we at malindikenya.net have been marrying for years.
"We turn above all to those who still live rejecting superficiality and reasoning with their own heads about their choices, sharing or not, but accepting in any case a constructive confrontation. The "different" is frightening precisely because it is unknown. Common sense, however, explains how only in comparison with others and in the exchange of knowledge there is the possibility for everyone to learn something different and then to be able to choose and grow. As an alternative to this, you are condemned to remain what you are; little or much that you are. It is not desirable to be all equal. Racism will surely end when we are all mulattos. But that's not going to be a good thing. All equal, we would not even have the hope of being able to change. "The different" is essential for us to grow and understand the context in which we find ourselves and act is fundamental to live the daily life with consistency. The motto of the Sololo Project is "Think global and act in the particular".
Thanks to this path, to the constant search for the Truth and to the confrontation with Christ and his Proposal, we can remain inserted in the world without being slaves to it. To always be oneself, opening oneself up with honesty and sincerity, writing one's own history with the key word "to love", is the true revolution that can be implemented today".
The filming of the documentary film "Italian in Kenya" has ended. It's a short feature commissioned by the Italian Foreign Ministry, through the Italian Institute of Culture in Nairobi, as part of the week of Italian language in the world.
A documentary about Italians in Kenya. And 'the idea, supported by the Italian Institute of Culture in Nairobi, the Italian director Giampaolo Montesanto.
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