Sicily: From “Neighbourhood X ” to “New Neighbourhood”

When it comes time to move, one Italian couple chooses to move into a disadvantaged neighbourhood of their town in Sicily, Italy. They struggle against organized crime and overcome indifference through their way of living.

We’ve been married for several years and have three children. A few years ago we had to move from our home because of our choice of life marked by fraternity. We decided to move to a disadvantaged quarter of the city, which was lacking in everything. We wanted to share the lives of the neediest among us, their everyday problems and needs.

The city of Gela is known for organized crime, violence and homicides. Worry and fear generate indifference and closing, leading everyone to live in isolation within the walls of their homes. Quartiere Fondo Iozza has now become our family dwelling. Dirty streets, filled with mud, without streetlights… There was need for a change. Rosa and Rocco felt it should begin with them.

One night during a storm, the telephone rang. Several garages were being flooded and a carpentry shop was about to be covered by water and debris. The landowner, who was our neighbor, was desperate. “I ventured out into the mud with the car,” Rocco explains. “We worked until five o’clock in the morning, doing everything we could to remove the water from the buildings, while encouraging the owner of the carpentry shop. Others came to give us a hand and solidarity suddenly began to make some headway. Then, little by little, we had the feeling that we had blocked the problem. If we hadn’t done something, the damages would have been much worse.”

The families of the quarter began discussing some of their problems with each other: the lack of a sewer system, which was causing serious health problems; the conditions of the roads and the water supply. “We were able to dialogue about these things,” declares Rosa, “because first we tried to create a relationship among all the families, and this made us look at the relationship with the administration also differently. With time we were able to move past the logic of protest to that of dialogue with several mayors who, from that moment, have been more open to working with us.”

A committee was formed and Rocco was elected to be its president, because of the trust he had gained “on site”. Primary objective: restore hope to people who have been discouraged by broken promises. Everyone slowly began to feel politically involved, because of their active participation in resolving issues. This didn’t go unnoticed and the group received an allocation of funds for the restoration of the quarter.

At the Fondo Iozza Quarter previously called the “X Quarter”, many things have changed: there is water and sewer system, natural methane system and public lighting. Now they proceeding with plans for secondary infrastructure (parish church, sport area, community centre) so that the community that has been born will have a place to live. The quarter has been renamed Quartiere Nuovo (New Quarter). It is seen as a pilot neighbourhood where there are daily efforts to humanize the living area.

Conversations from a few years back with Rocco Goldini, deacon and Chief Inspector of the municipal police in Gela, Sicily, known for his efforts in promoting active citizenship.  A commitment which still today, even after his death, continues to produce positive results.

Source: New Humanity online



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