Maria Sofia and two of her little friends in Bethlehem
Maria Sofia was in a peculiar class I only taught for one year, in their final year, in preparation of their school - leaving exams. It was back in 2008. What was peculiar in their group? It was made up of really motivated, hard-working young people. I can assure you,  that is rare, precious experience for a teacher nowadays. 
I have often written about teaching, about my students and the ups and downs of a difficult job here at FLY HIGH! But, as I told you in "And then they come back", sometimes it is meeting students after they leave school that makes me understand how important our work was and is. That is the moment I can sit and learn from them. This is why I decided to introduce a few of them to you. Because we all can learn something from these young people. 

Hello, my name is Maria Sofia and I am one of Mrs Spila’s former students.

When I left school I wanted to discover the world, to travel, to meet people; for this reason I decided to study Arabic Language and Culture at Rome University "La Sapienza". The Arab world is so close to us, geographically speaking, but it can be considered so far for the misleading idea that we, the westerners, have of it.

So during my studies in Rome I had the opportunity through the Erasmus Mundus Project to spend eight months in Cairo, in the aftermath of the Revolution,  then ten months in Irbid, a Jordanian town located 30 km from the Syrian border. These experiences gave me the chance to know several people, to learn and understand their culture, to discover, that despite the different religion and traditions, we have more in common than we can imagine. I noticed more similarities between Italy and Arab countries than between Italy and Northern Europe, we are Mediterranean people after all!

After graduation,  I was not completely satisfied of my achievements; I had learnt the language  and studied the culture of Middle East and North Africa, but the chances that the University could offer me did not match my expectations.
So I decided to sign up to a Master in Cooperation and Development in Pavia.  I wanted and I still want to do my part to improve our world, I want to contribute to the creation of a beneficial change and have a positive impact on people's lives. Development is freedom, as my wise professor says, so I like to think that I’m working for freedom in the world.

My  Master Degree Course brought me to Palestine, which is a country where human rights get very little respect, not a completely Sovereign State that has been living under Israeli occupation for long. I'm here writing my final thesis in order to get a Master Degree,  but I'm also trying to give a helping hand. 
Among the other difficult situations,  I had the chance to know a special reality, the Creche of the Holy Family and I'm working as a volunteer there. It a residential institution in Bethlehem that welcomes abandoned children and social cases between zero and six years old. There are about 40 children and since my arrival,  four or five new children have arrived.  Some of them are just babies,  newly born.

Each of them has a terrible story, some of them have been found in the streets, others have been left there from their parents because they got divorced and none of them wanted the child in his/her new life. Several of these children have disabilities, reason for which they have been left there. Fortunately, the institution provides the best care possible to these children, but they lack the most important thing: the love of their parents. Like all the workers and the volunteers there, I love these children with the deepest affection possible, but they really lack the individual, special care that only parents can give. What is worse is the uncertain future ahead. Adoption is not possible according to the law, but a kind of tutorship or foster care does exist. In this case, the child does not have the same rights as an adopted child and, furthermore, this option is not really spread because of cultural reasons. In fact, besides the legal issue, in this community the belonging to a family is very important, to the point that the lack of parental relations can badly affect the success of their lives. It will be difficult for them to find a job or to marry someone because they are considered nobodies.

I still don’t know which my next stop will be, but I’m already looking forward to it, to discover another piece of humanity.

Maria Sofia Tozzi 

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