Sergio Mattarella visiting the Saint Kizito Vti school (Photo: Ansa)

Kenya: Joy and the president

During his visit to the African country, the Italian President Matterella also stopped at the Saint Kizito Vti vocational school set up by AVSI and fruit of Fr. Giussani's educational passion.

Dear friends, we wanted to share with you the great event of the visit of the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, during his state trip to Kenya, to the oldest of the schools born from AVSI's work in the country: the Saint Kizito Vti. It is a highly regarded vocational school with ten courses that train cooks, electricians, mechanics, electronic technicians, plumbers, hairdressers, carpenters... Each year it welcomes 800 young people from all over Kenya and abroad.

It was Cardinal Maurice Otunga, now a Servant of God, who asked Fr. Giussani to send Memores Domini to help him open schools that could offer a future to the neediest young people. I was always moved by his great concern as a pastor for his people: "Poor young people cannot study, they are exploited and cannot start a family: help me give them a future."

A few weeks ago, we were informed of the president's possible visit. We immediately began working on a hypothetical itinerary for him considering the time available and the various needs. The Ambassador, the Deputy Ambassador and the head of Italian Cooperation came several times to check on everything and it was also a good opportunity to get to know each other better.

Days went by, and although I was a bit skeptical, the possibility of Mattarella being able to pass through Saint Kizito was becoming more and more concrete. Preparations were in full swing, and I was increasingly struck by the excitement of our students and teachers. I saw their growing excitement for a great event that was about to happen.

Finally we received confirmation. Giampaolo Silvestri, the AVSI secretary general, would come from Italy to welcome him, along Monsignor Philip Anyolo, the new Archbishop of Nairobi, a man very eager to meet and get to know us, as he repeated a few days later at Fr. Giussani's anniversary mass.

President Mattarella's arrival was a beautiful gift; our kids and all the staff were proud and deeply moved. Two young students explained to him what their courses consist of and the President listened to them with attention and involvement. At the end we greeted him, excitedly, with a song in Swahili, full of passion and joy.

What happened was an opportunity to be able to share the fruits of the method of The Risk of Education with which we try every day to help our students to be protagonists of their lives. I have always been moved by a letter written by one of them, a refugee, composed at the end of the course of study that he had been able to undertake thanks to AVSI’s distance support: "Thank you because in this school, for the first time, I was treated as a human being. I am going back to my country to teach my people how to do electrical installations."

Antonino, Nairobi, Kenya