“I give you what I can, you give me what I desperately need.”
Volunteering, solidarity, sharing the same ground, and mutually giving time and skills are responses to selfishness, loneliness, fear, and contribute to building a culture of peace. Trento, European Capital of Volunteering 2024, presents itself as a place to broaden reflection and relaunch the challenge.
We live in a time where everything is counted, measured, and evaluated in terms of money and numbers, and those who do not produce are easily discarded. The consumption of superfluous goods becomes the purpose of life. The new cathedrals thrive on the logic of frantic purchasing. All of this generates profound unhappiness, stemming from perpetual dissatisfaction. The path of gratuitousness, small gestures, simplicity, and volunteering goes against the current and is a path towards happiness.
Why does volunteering “improve health”?
Solidarity is making the other person a protagonist of exchange, as Don Tonino Bello used to say. So, I give you my time, my knowledge, my hands, and you fill my heart with what I need most, healing me deeply.
Volunteering is a precious space in our lives; it is a field of healing and happiness because it breaks through the closure of selfishness. Thinking of others is not trivial. Devoting oneself without ulterior motives, freely, fills the heart. To build a culture of peace, we need volunteering in all its branches: support, sports, health, culture, art, and environmental protection.
Solidarity and coexistence
If we dedicate some hours of our time to volunteering, we realize that we are part of a community. Volunteering creates community, nourishes it, and is the best antidote to loneliness and isolation. Lorenzo Dellai, in 2008 Governor of the Autonomous Province of Trento, had created the Department of Solidarity and Coexistence, a powerful intuition. I had the honor of leading it for five years, and thus I got to know the thousand forms of the Trentino volunteering fabric.
After the earthquake in Abruzzo, volunteering reached its peak with voluntary firefighters, the Red Cross, Nuvola, Psychologists for the People, and the 110 associations of the Trentino Table for Abruzzo. In the coexistence path with new citizens, we saw the birth of 64 associations of various origins, active in the territory. A lot of volunteering developed around the theme of women. And then, how can we not talk about the thousands of people involved in the 250 international solidarity associations!
A young person having a totalizing volunteering experience in a poorer area of the world becomes a better citizen, returns changed, more sensitive, and motivated. Solidarity creates communities.
Stories of volunteering and peace
Among the many stories of volunteering that bring peace to the heart and community, I think of Andrea, who went to Abruzzo to dig and found the last girl still alive under the rubble, deaf. I think of Carlo, a surgeon, who dedicated his life to Africa and made many people better. Nazmi, a Roma who fled the fires of the Kosovo war, who started an association to help the Roma in Pristina, and then came to the aid of the elderly in our valleys, delivering groceries and comfort during the pandemic. I think of M., who assists people at the end of life. Elena goes out at night and brings something warm to those who need to sell themselves. Luigi is over 90 years old and continues to give himself for those in need here and in Kenya.
Volunteering is also transmitting the values of solidarity to every corner of the planet to build peace. As Sister Antonietta did with the boys from the favela in Brazil. Today, one of her boys, Rodrigo, volunteers with a group, and through dance, they help elderly women, inhabitants of the quilombo, and victims of violence.
The list is endless. If you want to be happy and contribute to peace, go and do your part in volunteering.