ROMA – A time for “fun and meditation”, with “no physical, social and cultural barriers”. It is the 37th “Malta Camp”, the international summer camp for disabled children of the Order of Malta, which began on Sunday 31 July and running until Saturday 6 August at the monastery of San Vincenzo Martire of Bassano Romano, in Viterbo province. Gianluca Coco, 36, and Sofia Pinto Folicaldi, 25 are the two field leaders of the camp and they feel “excited and charged” as they start talking about the initiative to Dire agency.
The camp – 450 participants including staff and young people between 18 and 36, coming from 22 countries – has returned to take place after three years of break for the Covid-19 pandemic. “It has been a difficult time for disabled children, much harder than for everyone else, given the most unfavorable initial conditions”, said Pinto Folicaldi. “This summer camp is an opportunity to have fun and let our hair down; the thought of seeing them again after three years is wonderful”.
THE CAMP TOOK THREE YEARS TO COMPLETE
Getting the camp all set has taken three years. The organization has been coordinated by the Organizing Committee, made up of young volunteers of the three Grand Priories of Italy, in collaboration with the Italian Association of Knights of the Order of Malta and with the logistical support of the Corps Italian Relief of the Order of Malta. The last few weeks of set up and inspections were really active because “the goal was to make home every place that hosts participants, many of whom have a variety of specific needs”.
The start of the event was also greeted by Lieutenant of the Grand Master, Fra ‘John Dunlap, who welcomed the participants and sent a special appreciation to the italian organizers.
Plenty of activities are scheduled for the week, both to take place inside and outside the monastery. For example, the camp leader said, “we went all together to the Vatican, where we have attended the Solemn Mass celebrated by Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, Special Delegate of the Pope to the Order of
Malta. We also went to the adventure park in Riva dei Tarquini, where we planned several playful activities, designed to allow maximum participation even to disabled children who are equipped with wheelchairs “.
This year camp is ispired by verse of the Gospel of Matthew which reads: “Follow me, I will do you fishers of men”. Participants had the chance to meditate about the scripture.
“THE MAIN GOAL IS SHARING”
Fun and reflection are both meant to be part of the experience. The main goal of the initiative is sharing, according to Coco. “It is very important that we spend every minute of the day together, even when the
children are not doing anything in particular: sharing, playing and relaxing”, he said. ”It’s alla about team spirit, which is the motto of this Camp, namely to share everything and serve all, and to show great humanity, respect and brotherhood among people who come from different countries”.
Among these countries there is also Ukraine, hurt by a six months conflict. “It seemed both right and criucial to include young people from Ukraine, for several reasons. We are glad that a couple of kids from this country are coming along to the summer camp and we’d like to thank Poland for helping make this possible”, said Pinto Folicaldi. possible. “We are proud of our contribution in inviting these young people who are going through a very bad period in their everyday lives”.
The organization committee of the event did not underestimate the problems related to Covid-19, which it is still raging in Italy and in Europe. “Participants have been asked the three doses of vaccine. We did pcr test tampons on arrival and the day after and then we made mandatory the use of the mask during gatherings”, said Pinto Folicaldi.
It is all made for protect participants and volunteers and to preserve this experience, which Pinto Focaldi hopes “can remain as a gift even when the kids go back home: this is our ultimate goal”.
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