Previous Next

Strolling through the streets of Cagliari: a virus, the invisibles and the new youth

“We opened in early April. The distribution was expected to last only for the lockdown period. Then May arrived, and now we are thinking about June. Then, who knows”, says Alessandro Cao, while the team of volunteers he coordinates runs along with the perfect mechanism of the food distribution center of the Cagliari fair, managed by Caritas and created to support all those who to escape the pandemic have sunk in poverty .

Davide picks up the calls on the phone, listens to stories of frustration, anger and shame. He registers the requests for help, transformed into quantities of food by an automatic system that takes into account the family members, a datum previously recorded in the application forms. Four on average, more than 3000 families have joined the traditional distribution service in Po street. The fragility of a city is all in twelve thousand people hanging on the meager daily earnings, surprised in the cruel void, between the banks of regular work and those of the emergency welfare. Several are those who have not yet been able to benefit from the economic support measures developed by the government, stuck in the labyrinth of bureaucracy, or in the funnel of the banks. The printed list of ordinary foods, mainly purchased by Caritas, is accompanied by pen scribbles that add the fresh products of the day: tomatoes donated by farmers, baby food and diapers from pharmacies, Easter sweets from the supermarkets. In some stores it is possible to buy basic goods that are collected three times a week by the center's logistics. These are the "suspended trolleys" found in all Hard Dis and Iper Pan of Cagliari.

Sheets in their hands, the volunteers trod around the center covered by gloves and masks, composing the shopping in the carts. The list is then given to Francesco, who behind the counters, together with the other civil service volunteers, deals with files and archives. The new mass of data becomes a social and statistical geography. A demand comes from via Seruci. Impossible to satisfy it. The family received the bulk of groceries only five days earlier. The cycle, calculated on sustainability for the highest possible number of beneficiaries, can provide for each family only every 15 days. The carts are pushed out into the sun of the open space, turn into big white bags loaded on the couriers’ cars. "They thank us, they cry," says Sergio, sitting while he waits for the next trip. Directions in the city emptied by the virus are usually recurrent: San Michele, Is Mirrionis, Sant’Elia, Santa Teresa in Pirri, the galaxy of the Filipino community. Three hundred calls a day for the suburbs, full of citizens hanging on the wire. More than one hundred volunteers are employed in rotation in the industrious anthill of the center. Students, but not only. Also young boys and girls from the Gieffe supermarkets, the Old Square and Good pubs.

The May sun beats down on the shy traffic, climbs in the shade upon the stairs of the Holy Sepulcher church, where Dragan sits patiently: “The quarantine was a disaster. I collect and sell iron. In normal times I can raise 50/60 euros per day. I have four children, the eldest is six years old. We live in a small apartment, it's really difficult. We need all the support we can get. The municipality helps us with the rent, then there is the Red Cross. I also hope the center can help me out. My parents fled the Bosnian war. I was born here 29 years ago". Two Bengali boys precede him, they are seated apart, one meter from the door of the Caritas Foreigners' Listening Center. An old school desk separates them from the shadow of the small office and from the faces of Laura and Sister Verediana. They tell their story, very different from that of Dragan, absolutely identical.

“They are not gone. All migrants who populate our streets are closed and cramped in overcrowded houses. Often they fail to eat regular meals. They’re those who asks for coins at traffic lights, the street vendors and the day workers: a social bomb that will explode in a few months", explains on the phone Daniele Melis, the center’s manager. Dragan's turn comes and Marta disinfects all the chairs, tidies up the distance. The "Kepos" volunteers helps migrants to overcome the obstacles that divide them from basic life: food, work, a home, the Italian language. In normal times, volunteers listen to up to twenty people a day. During the quarantine, operations were carried out mainly by phone. Now, among a thousand precautions, the number is reduced to five. “Many have lost their jobs and homes. They are terrified. They don't speak the language. Understanding is complicated even for us in this period. We see many of them in the canteen in the evening” explains Laura, a university student from Nuoro who is also involved in the refectory of Boulevard Fra Ignazio.

The Caritas health services slowed down too, but never stopped. The historic clinics of the boulevard closed at the beginning of 2020 to be merged into the new structures hosted by Villa Asquer (soon to be inaugurated), where 60 doctors, nurses and administrative staff will resume their volunteer work. The batch of masks that the MEDSEA Foundation has decided to donate to Caritas will go to them. Dr. Giuseppe Frau, director of the ADI service in Cagliari, coordinates the team. “Due to the relocation, we were unable to operate fully, but we continued to take care our patients on the phone. Homeless, foreigners, citizens unable to access specialist care. We worked preserving them where we sensed a possible infection, we accompanied them in an ambulance during the transfer to the hospital, when even dialysis could be fatal. Our 2000 visits per year will increase, I fear".

In the old life, the one that will return with few lessons learned after the viral odyssey, the poor who went to the Caritas canteen paraded anonymously among the students of law, economics and political science. They walked along the splendid slope of Boulevard Fra Ignazio, nestled between the botanical garden, the Roman amphitheater and the city that descends to the endless space of the sea, a corner of that blue desert where everything sinks or everything is saved. Lightness does not offer a word to those who wear of worn or tacky clothes, to the poorly shaven faces, to the many connotations of misery. Suspicion and discretion are reciprocal and asymmetrical, transversal to geographies and religions. The brutality of silence is diluted by habit, by the tireless circle of days.

The soup kitchen has just opened and the neat row climbs up to the second floor of the building, where Massimo checks the temperature before entry, pointing is sophisticated thermometer on each forehead. It is again silence on the miscellaneous and abundant dishes, consumed in methodical quietness. Tomorrow arrows and other signals will appear on the floor, the new management of prophylactic movement. Luisa throws herself on the tables and clears up with cloth and disinfectant. Another diner can come in. “I belong to a group of Erasmus students. The association has proposed them to operate here, since they are blocked and in Sardinia and studying has stopped. I have a busy life between uny and other activities, but now ... it's a noble and interesting project, so I decided to become part of it", explains Luisa. The new experience discovers the remote ravines of despair: “Initially many of those who attend the canteen did not pay much attention to safety regulations. They are used to street life. But now they are more careful". What is the difference, for an invisible, between the invisible virus and the overwhelming corporeity of a winter night, on the street?

Eleonora takes care of serving. Barely her face emerges, covered by the surgery mask, the big glasses and the disposable cap. She studies biomedical engineering in Turin. She was here for a visit to her relatives (her father flanks her in serving the food), when she got confined in Cagliari by the pandemic. “I've always been interested in volunteering. When I realized it was going to be long I asked around, and I landed here. We await the call of those who organize the shifts. It's nice to help the others. And then you get out of your own world, you understand that not everyone lives the way you live".

Behind the counter of the dishes, first in the row, deployed in forking out the bread, is Father Marco Lai, director of the Caritas of Cagliari. “Being unable to celebrate, I spend here every evening. And here I witnessed the triumph of solidarity". Many, starting from the young, have replaced the historical volunteers, often beyond age and burdened with a couple of dangerous pathologies. The number of meals in the soup kitchen has increased, and so has the number of those who ask for a bed at night. The latter have grown from 75 to 150. The proportion that describes Caritas' activities in southern Italy has not changed. 75/80% of the beneficiaries remain foreigners. In Cagliari, emergency containment is represented by the distribution center of the fair. The duration of the emergency service will depend only on the timeliness and consistency with which the assistance measures developed by the government will be implemented. "The obligation of distances has allowed us to learn again the importance of the eye contact, the questions, the attention to relationships, to others. The pandemic, and the economic crisis that will come, could be an opportunity to make a small leap, and move together towards a society that has the common good at the center", says Father Marco.

Outside, the dusk thickens slowly over people and things. Two volunteers take care of distributing the bags with takeaway dinners for Muslims. Ahmad waits to break his fast on a nearby short wall. Behind it Cagliari is lying in the blurred pastels of its buildings. "Before the emergency I worked in the pond, with mussels. Now it's all over. Hopefully this all ends soon, hopefully they’ll call me back to work soon. Where I sleep? On the road. I asked here, but it's all busy. I have to wait three days, they said". Three days have passed. We are sure that Ahmad now has a place to spend the long dark hours.

Ultime notizie

©2018 MEDSEA Foundation. All Rights Reserved.