It takes a community to raise children: a story of redemption from the Casa del Sorriso in Naples

In the Houses of Smiles around the world and in Italy, our operators help children and mothers in difficult situations every day and have stories full of hope to tell. Like Lucia’s story.

Mother of four boys and girls, Lucia lives in a small street in a suburban neighborhood of Naples where there are no meeting places for minors and teenagers and where there are only food shops. Lucia approached the Case del Sorriso program in the San Pietro a Patierno district with the desire for redemption for herself and her family. Months after the first meeting, she says to the educator Simona: “You taught me that together we can achieve great goals, today I am a new, different woman”.

A husband in prison and four children to look after in a small apartment on the fourth floor of a building with no lift, and no fixed salary to count on. The initial picture is worrying, but Lucia has never been discouraged and has always tried not to let her children lack anything. Thanks to the Case del Sorriso program, after a few individual listening and support interviews, a network between the school, social services, and the family was activated around her which made it possible to support her in career guidance and educational support for her children. Lucia was then included in the mothers’ group, where she could share different moments from everyday life and feel less alone.

This is precisely what the operators of the Case del Sorriso program build together with the people they meet in moments of fragility: a support network, a real community. “I love my job. Being able to give voice to the silences that make you feel bad, make the invisible become visible, allow others not to believe that life is just the moment of difficulty they are experiencing at that moment, but provide them with adequate tools to be able to go further and look from other points of view a certain moment”, says the educator Simona.

Step by step, the moment arrives to introduce the children: Sara aged 17, Paola aged 15, Carlo aged 13 and Fabio aged 10. An educational work begins with them: the boys and girls become part of a group of peers and in a path of scholastic enhancement.

It wasn’t easy at first: the two older girls didn’t want to study and school had become a nightmare for them. However, thanks to the support of educators and the school, Paola obtained her middle school diploma with an excellent exam. She then enrolled in the hotel management school and is now pursuing the HACCP for food business operators. When she grows up she wants to become a chef or a room operator, she really likes to cook, prepare the tables and serve the dishes she cooks. Sara instead dreams of being a photographer, of visiting unknown places and traveling in order to know the essence of things.

Thanks to the Case del Sorriso program I was able to make my children understand the importance of school and today my eldest daughter is in her fourth year of high school”. Even the two youngest children, Carlo and Fabio, now in the second and fifth grade, are able to face the study with much more serenity.

As the educator Simona tells us, “the real engine of change is providing for the education of children. Only culture can set them free! It is essential to be able to make them passionate about “beauty” and make them understand that it is necessary for their future not to stop at elementary school. For many kids, school becomes a very hard and high obstacle to climb over. At the age of 15/16, they often lack basic skills and are still stuck in sixth grade”.

It takes a community to raise children.