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"You Are At the Heart of Development"

Gaia shares her experience of preparing the AVSI "Tent" Campaign in Chicago with her friends.

Last Christmas, I had the chance to participate in a fundraising event for AVSI Foundation. My friends Cristina Gini and Laura Buttafarro from Italy offered a series of online cooking classes through Cristina's cooking school and all of the money was donated for a project in Nigeria. It was a beautiful charitable experience and a moment of friendship. Afterwards, our friend Sabrina Paganoni from Boston invited me to a meeting with those in the United States who did a similar project for AVSI. Meeting these others was a beautiful experience where I discovered many different places and people where this mission is alive and talking to the hearts of people.

With last year’s experience in mind, this year I asked a few friends, as well as the whole Chicago community, to prepare together the AVSI Christmas Tents. We decided to prepare felt Christmas ornaments and as we worked together we kept in mind both The Meaning of Charitable Work by Fr. Giussani and the time of Advent where we are waiting for Jesus to be born again in our life. To sew the felt ornaments was beautiful, but it also required a sacrifice of time. I was often very tired as I sewed in the evening and sometimes I would sacrifice time with my family in order to prepare the ornaments. However, as I kept in mind all of the people I love and the people of Haiti, to whom we devoted the collection we gathered from the Tents, I truly understood that Jesus is born again now, even in the midst of all of these small sacrifices, and this awareness helped me to live the preparation of the ornaments full of gratitude and love.

Together with a few moms from the community, we set aside a day before the start of Advent to make ornaments with the kids in hopes that throughout the Advent season they would be able to keep in mind the reason why we work to make and sell these ornaments. We decided to prepare the Holy Family ornament with the older kids and to paint wooden stars with the youngest. Jackie from AVSI generously helped us to organize a call with two people living in Haiti: Gaby, a Haitian man, and an AVSI missionary woman. The conversation with them was a gift. They shared with us a little bit about the tremendously difficult situation people are living in Haiti after the last earthquake and what kind of help AVSI provides them. Kids could ask questions of any kind and each question was listened to and answered with care. The thing that struck me the most was the missionary woman saying to us that sometimes people thank them not only for the food but also for simply being with them. Considering the situation of Haiti, defined by Haitian people as a big “prison island,” this experience she shared is another testimony that our heart is longing for a real presence in our life. A Presence that can sustain any circumstance we are in.

The sale day of the ornaments was great. Friends from the community donated a few different kinds of ornaments and the table was colorful, full of variety, and everyone who gathered to sell the ornaments was happy. For me, the understanding of Giussani that to help the other is first of all a need of my own heart has been the continuous starting point for this time of preparing the AVSI Tents. It was a truly helpful way to live Advent; a beautiful way for my children, my friends, and myself to prepare our hearts for the Lord with a horizon that reaches beyond our lives in Chicago.

Gaia, Chicago, IL


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