Contagion of Hope

In Lombardy more than 27 thousand meals distributed in the canteens for the poor, 100 structures sanitized and upgraded to protect patients, doctors and nurses against Covid.

The preliminary result of “Contagion of Hope”:  a community endeavor which unites people of all faiths.

The 4 million dollar aid program supported by the Government of the United States continues until November.

Contagio della speranza

In only four months, the project “Contagion of Hope” has provided shelter to 134 homeless, offered shower services to 2,902 persons, and distributed 27,816 meals in canteens for the poor and 2,559 personal hygiene kits. The program was developed to respond to the health emergency caused by the spread of the Coronavirus in Lombardy and to cope with the social consequences of lengthy isolation required to contain the pandemic.  Made possible by a United States Government donation of four million dollars, the initiative began in May and will continue until November.  The aid, provided through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), reaches a network of faith-based organization of different creeds and denominations:  the Caritas of five dioceses in Lombardy (Milan, Bergamo, Brescia Lode e Cremona)  Opera San Francesco per i Poveri, the Waldensian Diaconia and Islamic Relief.

The American aid provided 36,264 Euro for vouchers that enabled for families in difficulty to shop in the emporium of Caritas Ambrosiana and 14,300 Euro to shop at supermarkets.  Further it has made it possible to sanitize 83 structures including day centers and offices and to bring up to regulatory standards 7 temporary shelters and 10 alternative centers created to quarantine patients, doctors and nurses.

The intervention, under the direction of CRS (Catholic Relief Services) and Caritas Ambrosiana, is designed to address social as well as health issues.  On one side, it provides essential services to groups and individual at risk.  On the other, it supports hospitals through the rental of emergency accommodations for COVID patients and for medical personnel.

Contagion of Hope

"Our partners have done an exceptional job, aiding people most affected by the pandemic.  We are thankful to them and the government of the United States for the work that continues while Italians, like all of us, are still fighting again the virus", remarks Keven Hartigan, the CRS Regional Director for the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia.

“The health emergency quickly transformed into a social emergency that has affected the truly most vulnerable.  This project allows us to rapidly respond to both fronts opened by the pandemic, allowing us, as Pope Francis begged, “To leave no one behind”, points out Luciano Gualzetti, Director of Caritas Ambrosiana.  “In the name of all the Dioceses involved, I particularly want to express my gratitude to our American friends. We have appreciated their assistance all the more knowing how much the pandemic has devasted even their country,” adds the Director.

“As Italy, along with the rest of the world, continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States is proud to provide funding to Catholic Relief Services and Fondazione Caritas Ambrosiana for “Contagion of Hope”. This program will provide access to shelters, hygiene facilities, and essential supplies to people in Italy hardest hit by the pandemic.  Faith-based organizations like Catholic Relief Services and Fondazione Caritas Ambrosiana are effective and trustworthy partners, inspired by a sense of purpose and dedication to help those most in need,” said Callista L. Gingrich, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

How the Contagion of Hope works

On the Health front, the project offers to recovering patients shelter, food, room cleaning and other services. Also it has given doctors and nurses access to dormitories and hotel rooms near the hospitals where they work, allowing them to rest between shifts, thus reducing the possibility of virus exposure by them or by their families.  This allowed hospitals, particularly during the most acute phase of the epidemic, to free up beds for new patients and in general to increase their capacity to respond.

Contagion of Hope

On the social front, the program has assisted partners to adopt anti-Covid health standards in 17 centers that they manage.  Measures implemented range from the preparation of rooms where symptomatic individual can self-isolate to the disinfection of the communal areas, from the provision of washing services to the daily health checks for the guests. In this way it has been possible to keep the dormitories and shelters open during the period in which the virus circulated most diffusely among the population, thus allowing uninterrupted services essential for the homeless and the most vulnerable who are also those most exposed to infection, safeguarding their health, and that of the operators and the volunteers who take care of them.

Further the intervention distributes food, responding to the increasing requests coming from families that have seen a dramatic reduction in their own income due to the lockdown.  More precisely, diverse forms of food support have been offered in their area:  from meals in the canteens to home delivery of food packs for the old, the chronically ill, the disabled until the vouchers for purchasing essential generic food at points of sale and emporiums.


Photo by: Tiberio Mavrici, Luca Servidati
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