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They were people who had a lot of dignity
sur le banc

I think for a volunteer it's particularly important to have personal contact with poor and socially excluded people. Solidarity means not only to help from an economical point of view but also to respect each other as citizens. Citizens who have equal rights in a democratic world.

 I've had first hand experience with people living on the streets and all of them felt the need of a sincere and genuine contact. They wanted to be able to talk with someone willing without having to ask for anything.

 As a volunteer, I had a mission with Tirana 'The House of Bethlehem' on behalf of an NGO from the Italian Catholic Church. It's a social centre that gives shelter and relief to people who are living on the streets, and who are in deep poverty.

 I slept and ate with them together and they gave me a warm welcome. One of them spoke English and some of the others a little Italian. We understood each other very well and all their attention was on me. They wondered why I was with them and why was I a volunteer? As a sign of respect, they called me “The Gentleman”. They were people who had a lot of dignity; no one ever asked me for anything.

 For another mission I was in Madrid in full winter and early in the morning, I gave hot chocolate with brioche to the homeless whilst wishing them a good morning with some words of comfort. They lived in big card-board boxes. They too were in urgent need of finding someone to talk to.

 However, much more than before because of the financial crisis around the world, we are witnessing a lot of people in extreme poverty. All the help we can give to them is just but a grain of sand in the desert!

 We debate these problems in many fields of society; from policy to companies, from mass-media to influential institutions etc.

 Yet, if democracy really is “The Government of the People”, it requires a change of perspectives to direct our society towards solidarity and social justice. This is necessary to create an authentic democratic world. Only this change can give us the possibility of reaching new goals to promote a truly social involvement and an awareness of the serious problems which modern times have to face.

Sergio P. Italy