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Cei 8-per-thousand funds to the Cottolengo of Montalban (Filippine). “The image of God shines in every person”

A “virtual” journey in the “Small Steps” centre of Montalban, the Cottolengo Institute run by the don Orione Foundation in the Philippines. It’s one of the projects recipient of the funds of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) deriving from the “8-per-thousand” tax-devolvement scheme for charitable interventions in Third World Countries. The next meeting of the CEI Committee of May 26-27 will examine further 125 projects

An abandonment that turns into a smile. A solitude that meets a family. This is what has been happening for the past 25 years. “Small Steps” is the Cottolengo – an Institute for the physically and mentally disabled – run by the Don Orione Foundation in the city of Montalban, in the district of Rodriguez, Philippines. The structure that currently homes 38 youths, is the result of a project funded with 8-per-thousand funds (scheme envisaging devolving the 8-per-thousand of taxable income to Italy’s Churches) to charitable interventions in Third World Countries.

In some World Countries disability is an unbearably heavy burden. Fifty per cent of the youths hosted in the Cottolengo of Montalban were abandoned at an early age because in many cases, when a child with severe disabilities is born in a family with 4/5 children, the parents face the impossibility of integrating the child. “Many of the children hosted in our structure – said Alessio Cappelli, President of the don Orione Foundation – were found on the doorstep of Cottolengo institute with a note:

“Don Orione will take care of him.”  

And there they will remain their entire life. The Cottolengo institute thus becomes their home, and those who take care of these youths have become their parents, their family. “Small steps” counts 22 workers, and the various activities are animated by students and volunteers. “The centre’s doors are open.” The experience of abandonment and disability trigger the closeness and the solidarity of the whole community. It is not a “home of suffering”, nor “a centre for unsolvable problems.” Rather, it’s a place – said don Alessio – where “the youths can recover their smile, while those near them find a way to draw closer to God and live out their spirituality.” It’s the charism of don Orione. Don Alessio pointed out: “A diamond has many facets, each of which reflects its own ray of light, but the core whence this energy emanates is found in the words of don Orione:

“The image of God shines in every man and in every woman.”

The centre is one of the “projects” adopted at the end-of March meeting of the Committee for Charitable Interventions in Third World Countries:

A total number of 82 projects, recipients of 14.134.637 euro.

In Africa, for example, the funds will be devolved to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the missionary sisters of Saint Carlo Borromeo run a centre for single mothers. In Burkina Faso the funds will be used to activate agro-economy courses at the Private Polytechnic University, thereby countering the huge migratory flow of young people to Europe; in Mali, these financial resources will contribute to the creation of a professional Centre in Zura; in Sierra Leone they will support maternal-childhood services at the St. John of God Catholic Hospital in the southern area of the Port Loko district.. CEI 8-per-thousand funds have been also devolved to Asia: from the Philippines to Bangladesh. In Jordan they helped the Pro Terra Sancta Association support the activity of a small local start-up for Iraqi women that took refuge in Amman.

The Committee, formed by 14 members, meets 6/7 times a year. Its members include also selected experts such as University Professors, doctors, engineers, and people with experience in the field of cooperation. Every time they meet a stream of generosity from Rome reaches out to all corners of the world, even to the most remote places, where they carry out their activity with the support of the last missionaries, workers and priests. Thanks to the 8-per-thousand funds allocated by the Church to developing Countries as many as 14.529 projects have been carried out since 1990. 2 727 have been approved in the last four-year period alone (2013/2016) with a total allocation of 370.432.687,49 Euro.

The next meeting will be held in the CEI headquarters on May 26-27, during which will be examined some 125 projects.

“Without this support given by the Italian State to the Italian Church, representing eight per thousand of taxable income, we wouldn’t be able to carry out these activities, and centres like ours wouldn’t exist”, said don Alessio, who added: “In this regard, the experience of the Cottolengo institute is emblematic. It’s universal, open to everyone.

When someone knocks on our doors we don’t ask them if they are Christian.

We open our doors to whoever is in a state of suffering. It’s the distinguishing universality of don Orione, which we seek to implement wherever we carry out our service worldwide.”

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