NOTES FROM A SERIOUSLY UNDERPRIVILEGED LOCKDOWN:

This short story is not about us and our beautiful and safe homes, and the food on our tables.

You and we are the upper case “Accidental Tourists”: the lucky ones who can choose the destination and duration of their wandering, and can set the date of their return home.

This post is about the “lower case accidental tourists”, those less fortunate, who travel without luggage, itinerary, a return ticket, or a home to return to.

Having a home to safely lockdown in, and wondering how we are going to loose the extra pounds we will inevitably put on, is now more than ever a luxury.

Accidental Tourist has been making a good living by providing food and accommodations. So a few years ago we felt is was about time to extend some of that warmth to those who can’t afford it. (Karma, they call it – you don’t want to mess with that, really).

So a few years back, we have connected with Fondazione Progetto Arca, a small and extremely active, down-to-earth organization who provides relief and shelter to those lower case fellow “travelers”.

FPA not only provides genuine food, but also:
– clean and safe haven to homeless cancer patients undergoing chemo;
– psychological support to those who have suffered trauma;
– housing for families who have lost everything;
– work training to help homeless people find employment:
(many of those assisted end up in fact finding employment at FDA or their suppliers, to help assist others).

So the Accidental Tourist started donating FPA the equivalent of one meal for every meal served in our kitchen. That averaged about 1800 meals per year.
(They provide that many in one day!)

Last December, a few days before Christmas, I finally arranged to meet them in person in Milan, to put faces next to names. It was pouring rain. When I arrived at the office, a lovely young lady offered me a hot tea while I waited for the PR manager I had an appointment with: Olivier Sannier.

He arrived, jacket and tie, accompanied by Melissa, also very well dressed, followed by a very impressive and amiable chat which taught me about all of FPA’s activities (Impressive! Did I say that?).

Then the little magic happened:
7:30PM came about, and so did Giovanni. He walked in the office, looking tired but cheerful.
“Dinner time!” he announced. I thought it was the end of their work day.
But no.
We all crammed inside Giovanni’s car; I had to climb and perch on the baby seat. He said apologetically “sorry, I have 2 bambini and one on the way”.

There was horrible rush hour traffic.

When we pulled over by a sort of cafeteria, Melissa and Olivier disappeared in a back room, only to show up a few minutes later dressed in casual clothes and aprons:

All I had met til then, turned into cooks and servers and cleaners, and contributed to feed about 150 people from the streets.
They knew each one by name, and formally introduced as many to me as they could, and told me their personal stories.
– – – – –
My train ride back to my beautiful spacious safe ancient home, was dominated by this main question:

“Does other people suffering make me appreciate more what I have? Or does it make me feel sorry and guilty?”

That’s when I remembered that gratitude is a much more congenial feeling than guilt, so I am thankful. Immensely thankful.

But COVID will likely keep our kitchen empty of visitors for a long time.
That means we cannot keep supporting FPA.

That is why we need your help.

(More on that soon).

For now, FPA only has promo material in Italian.
But images speak an international language.

Here you’ll see:
– In the kitchen
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DThwqYdb-c

– The voyage of food
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABoRsQbDGXI

– A day in the life of Fondazione Progetto Arca
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jVrb4XwItk

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