20 years later

Publish date 29-07-2020

by Annamaria Gobbato

August 2, 1983, feast of the pardon of Assisi; we enter the former Military Arsenal of Turin, a real ruin, without prejudice to the load-bearing structures, decidedly powerful.

Not even to think about sitting down, dirt and cobwebs everywhere, rubble, garbage clutter the road. But now the die was cast, and the sleeves had to be rolled up. The hard part was deciding where to start. And with whom. Excluding construction experts: at Sermig there were masters, professors, bankers, clerks, hairdressers, housewives, but no bricklayer or surveyor, let alone an engineer ... No hesitation: the boss decided to entrust the first cleaning to everyone, none excluded, in the hours after work and of course on Saturdays and Sundays.

His motto was - and still is - "if people see us convinced, they will follow us"! As in many other things he was right and already from the first days after the fateful date some inhabitants of the area offered to help us. Like the tam tam in the forest, obviously we didn't have a phone, the voice spread and a beautiful Sunday knocked on the door (with a little determination, because the door was adequate for the structure, that is, huge) about thirty children. From first grade, school ...

Obviously the work has been adapted to their abilities, but we have not sent them away. "Disproportion is a sign of God", another motto of the chief, and of course he was right here too, otherwise how we would have been able to transform the old, indeed falling, weapons factory into an arsenal of peace, now tripled also in the Middle East ?

Finally the word of mouth also reached an "expert", and that "expert"! Owner of one of the best known studies in Turin, Prof. Giulio Pizzetti showed up at the Arsenale to offer his help. But, tell me if you 'Arsenale is not a miracle of Providence: it did not qualify for what it was, it only said that it had some free time and wanted to' help out '. One day by chance Ernesto spoke in front of him about the renovation of the building, and he was asked: "If he wants to talk to me, it would be my job ..." and so we found out who he was. Since then it was easy to see the professor - but woe to give it this title! - Pizzetti kneeling in the dust or climbing on a mezzanine to measure, calculate, draw graphs and plants ... He gave us his time, his expertise, together with the renovation project of the first shed, thanks to which the roof did not fall into head and we could now organize the first meetings of prayer and sharing. But above all he gave us his presence, his friendship. In my opinion he is the paradigm of the many, many, many volunteers, indeed, friends - the term 'volunteer' is very trivial and reductive - who offered and offer their time, their ability, their availability to the House of Hope, Arsenal of Peace. They are the ones who deserved this name of the Arsenale, because without their presence the House could not remain open for a single day, and instead it is open 24 hours a day.

Now the new 'Giulio' are called Natalina, Stefania, Rosanna, Cristina, Gianni, Luigi, Umberto ... how do you list hundreds of names? A consortium that seeks to 'do good well' with the fraternity of the Sermig who lives in the Arsenal, allowing housing, medical care, projects and emergency aid in the Third World. The new 'Giulio' are also called Carla, Maria, Nunzia, precious friends because they do not volunteer with their hands, but with their hearts: they are present with prayer and offering their suffering for all our needs and for the needs of those who ask us for help.

One question remains: why, once we knew the Arsenal of Peace, did they return as volunteers?


from Nuovo Progetto, August-September 2003

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