A Piece of Paradise
The Boston and DC communities share their experience of preparing for the AVSI "Tent" Campaign.
Founded in 1972 by members of Communion and Liberation, AVSI Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Milan, Italy that implements development and humanitarian aid projects in 35 countries around the world. The vision of the foundation is to work for a world where people are the protagonists of their own integral development and that of their community, even in crisis and emergency contexts. AVSI-USA is the non-profit organization created in 2000, and is a member of the AVSI Foundation network with the same mission and vision to restore dignity and build resilience in the face of poverty and marginalization.
Around Christmas, AVSI organizes Tende Campaigns or Annual Campaigns. The Italian word “tent” is used to remember the stands at Christmas markets, where one can buy gifts and winter treats. Those who participate in the Tende Campaign invest generous amounts of time to create beautiful products to sell in order to both raise money and awareness of the campaign. This year, the theme is “You are at the Heart of Development: A Time to be Brave,” which serves as a reminder that we are all called to contribute to human development – in the sense that development is easing human suffering, opening up access to essential services for a healthy life and proper growth, and creating dignified work that can become the engine for building wealth and, therefore, greater stability and opportunities for human flourishing. It matters because the human family is one, and if we fail to live out this dimension of unity with others, the horizon of life remains small and others are easily viewed as a threat.
As Francesca from Boston shared, these fundraisers have become a “community tradition” for many communities around the US. Here we share the experience of some from Boston and DC who participated, together with their children, in preparing and selling the goods to fundraise for this Christmas “tent” campaign.
For me the experience is always a bit different since I work for AVSI and my kids are always hearing about the projects, people I meet, and the needs out in the world. But since last year when I proposed to my kids to help with a fundraiser and to involve their friends, I’ve been surprised by how immediately they were certain that it would be something rewarding and good for them. For them, the connection between doing something beautiful and for others and our Advent preparation for Christmas was almost obvious! For my 4 year old up to my 15 year old, they expressed in different ways that the season is about recognizing the amazing gift of the child Jesus and the Love that he brought into the world and our lives. If we have the chance to share this Great Love with other kids and families around the world, especially those who have suffered greatly, then yes of course, let’s do it! For me this time preparing the items was a true moment of prayer: keep the hearts of these little ones open to Your attractive and very real presence in the world, which all began on that first Christmas!
The other side of the experience for me has been connecting with others across the US who were planning similar events. For some, doing an AVSI fundraiser is the same as buying gifts for one’s family—a normal and very important part of expressing the love they have towards people who have become important for their lives…even if they have never met the children in Mexico. This is amazing! Others approached it more hesitantly, with burning questions, actively seeking answers that satisfy. How can we help our children (and ourselves) to live this expectant waiting for the birth of Christ not focused on gifts and parties but on a true seeking of His tangible presence? What does helping the poor have to do with this? This is what I love about our life in the Movement: we are not afraid of acting based on the certainties we have discovered, even while still seeking the fullest answers. In this way, we are able to live a constant dialogue with God made Man, so familiar and yet so far beyond my comprehension! - Jackie, DC
“A piece of paradise” these are the words to describe the AVSI fundraiser that took place at Sacred Heart Parish in Boston. It was a moment of joy as we ate donuts, sold crafts, and sang Christmas carols. A moment of joy that announced to the world that our Savior is born, a Savior who through us, reaches and helps those in need supported by AVSI. Everyone who participated – from little children to older adults – freely donated their time and resources to support us, and therefore, those in need. One child asked with curiosity, “What is AVSI?” There is the formal answer of what AVSI is, but the experience of AVSI for us happened in the road we walked in these months and in that little Church backyard today in the neighborhood of East Boston where people from different backgrounds came together to be “the heart of development.” - Laura, Boston
During our AVSI Fundraiser this Christmas, it became very clear to me that Christ was present in our gesture because He generated so much more than we could have planned for. Beyond the generosity of those who prepared the fundraiser and those who donated, the moment of caroling together was an incredible gift. I was so happy to see that those who participated experienced a more intimate unity among each other. I am grateful for the other members of our group whose desire and faithfulness are often stronger than mine, but whom I can follow. - Amanda, Boston
I am so grateful for the friends who proposed to do something together with our kids for the Christmas AVSI Tents. The various comments of the kids (“Why don’t we go to Haiti to repair the buildings?” or “Let’s go to the supermarket to sell more things to give to the poor”), the time spent together to prepare the crafts, and the beauty of our “AVSI Tent,” have been simple but essential reminders of the One we are waiting for this Christmas and every day. - Melissa, DC
I find myself filled with gratitude after our AVSI fundraiser. Having a desire to engage with some of the kids in our community, I proposed a few moments at my home where kids and interested adults painted wooden ornaments, made quilled paper ornaments, and worked on cross stitch embroidery ornaments. I saw the work of preparing for the fundraiser expand to more friends, young and old, and was moved by their perseverance and enthusiasm. The day of the fundraiser at the parish was chilly and windy, but that made no difference. The day was extraordinary, and the happiness was evident on the faces of everyone present. I recognized faces of people who came to previous AVSI fundraisers. What is it that attracts them to this place and brings them back each time? It is the presence of Christ in the people He calls to witness to Him. On this day the simple gestures of eating and singing became the sign of His presence. I was exhausted from a long week at work and driving over an hour to Boston two days in a row, but I was happy. I am grateful for the friends who help me to be aware of how He moves among us and calls us to glorify Him through the simple work of our hands and our open hearts. - Sharon, Boston
Once again, we cherish our time together working for an AVSI fundraiser this Advent. Looking back, after our initial commitment, every small step of preparation was a beautiful confirmation of Providence guiding us and keeping us together, and the sale on Gaudete Sunday was remarkable and beyond any of our expectations. Our fundraiser included many different talents that, with a little diligence and work, provided a substantial variety and quantity that was beautiful. As I meditate on this year’s AVSI slogan, “you are the heart of development,” I think of the individual small gentle gestures that made up this fundraiser full of our hearts’ great desire to give of ourselves to others. Developing our affection for the Other, we hope this development may reach many persons, in their hearts and in their communities. This year, Our Lady of Guadalupe certainly shed her light on us all when we celebrated this remarkable morning of sincere charity through friendship and community. We are so humbled and grateful! - Maria, Boston
The simple gesture of the AVSI tent, together with an AVSI video about their Lebanon project proposed during the community Christmas party, was the experience of being part of the same great and merciful Beauty that happens now in the place where we are as well as in faraway countries such as Lebanon. The joy of participating through something minuscule in something infinitely greater gave us the same taste of the joy the refugees in Lebanon were witnessing. I could clearly see how the experience of gratuity generates gratitude, again, in Lebanon as much as here. -Ilaria, DC