ITALIANS IN KENYA
22-03-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo
He calls them "fragments of eternity", they are many lives in which experiences, encounters and intercultural exchanges, passion and meaning are collected.
Massimiliano Pilotti's new fragment of eternity, an advertising executive and publisher with a degree in philosophy, is called Kenya and is under the banner of solidarity.
Together with other cooperators, he has created the On-Africa Social Promotion Association, whose aim is to help and support the most vulnerable children and young people to go to school and take care of their mental health.
Pilotti himself tells Portale degli Italiani in Kenya about his new life in Africa.
"I first came to Kenya in 2018 for a short holiday in Mombasa and after a few weeks I decided to return. I stayed almost a year, hosted by a religious institute, to start a period of personal study during which I wrote and finished my thesis. Then, after graduating with a degree in Philosophical Sciences and a short work experience in Europe, I moved here to Nairobi in December 2020.
But before landing in Kenya and giving shape to the new "fragment", Massimiliano has twenty years of stories and other continents behind him.
Originally from Monza, in the nineties, those of the "Milan to drink", he opened an advertising agency working as a consultant for leading companies.
In 2002 he was "thunderstruck on the road to Brazil" and by an idea that no one had had before.
"One of my dreams has always been to open a publishing house,' says Pilotti. 'At that time nobody knew that the sales charts were populated by our compatriots, Italian-Brazilians who had achieved incredible success. This gave rise to the idea of publishing books translated from Portuguese in Italy and from Italian in Brazil, and to call the publishing house ItaliaNova. In ten years, travelling continuously between Milan and São Paulo, I have published more than a hundred books, including official biographies of former President Lula and driver Ayrton Senna. I also acquired the rights to publish in Italy and Brazil an unpublished, posthumous work by Pope John Paul II (I am with you!)'.
The 2009 crisis, and that of culture in general, closed the chapter of the Brazilian book, but it was then that the young publicist-publisher decided to 'take it philosophically', returning to study for his degree.
And it was philosophy that brought him closer to the world of solidarity.
During the ten years I spent studying," recalls the head of On Africa, "I worked for the Diocese of Milan as head of a reception centre for asylum seekers. That experience was crucial for my future choice to settle in Kenya. In fact, living daily the difficulties and dramas of many young people who have left their families and their lands in the hope of finding their fortune in Europe, I had the opportunity to understand, at least in part, some aspects of this incredible continent. It was in this way that I started to seriously consider the possibility of spending some time in Africa and, since I needed to 'withdraw from the world' to complete my thesis, thanks to some coincidences, I found myself in Kenya. Here I found a quiet place where I could study, write and, in the meantime, live and get to know a reality that was completely new to me. Obviously, besides the many beautiful things, I also encountered the misery of many lives, suffering and many other forms of injustice and poverty. The greatest of these is denying children the right to go to school and to receive a higher and qualified education, excluding them from the possibility of being able to look to the future with hope. I have a specialisation in Human Rights and Ethics in International Cooperation and the first thing I learned is that, in order to solve the problems related to poverty, we have to start from education".
So for Massimiliano Pilotti a new mission began, for which there is no longer any profit and the only goal is to do good in a constructive way.
I started out with the awareness that the time had come to pay for all the good I had received in my life," he reveals. "In fact, as well as committing ourselves to paying school fees, I strongly advocated the creation of Mental Health Facility Centres (MHFC) so that young people, victims of abuse or other types of violence and addiction, could be offered psychological support to help them overcome states of anxiety, stress and depression and recover their mental health. It is not enough to send them to school! A period of recovery is necessary to regain the inner serenity needed to study.
At the moment, we have an active centre in Nairobi, opened in collaboration with the nuns of the Missionary Congregation of Evangelizing Sisters of Mary (a congregation founded by two Italian Comboni missionaries, Father Marengoni and Monsignor Mazzoldi) and we are in negotiations to open a second one at the St. Ninians Talent Academy near Busia, on the border with Uganda".
Pilotti remembers that he is a marketing expert, but he has a very clear idea of fundraising campaigns.
"We will never use images of dirty, poor or suffering children in order to induce compassion and donate," he explains, "Personally I consider that unethical. My slogan is: if you don't know what poverty is, use your imagination or Google it. With us you will only see the faces of beautiful, smiling children. Secondly, we do not organise long-distance adoptions (with lots of letters and photographs) because, while I respect the work of so many people who work for the good of these brothers of ours, I believe that a child should not grow up knowing that someone, outside of his family, is constantly providing for his needs, because he will get used to the idea that 'asking' is the best way to solve problems. For this reason, the money we collect we pay directly to the schools with a specific request not to inform the children that someone from outside is paying their school fees".
To continue composing the most uplifting fragment of his life, Maximilian now needs to find a way to settle permanently in Kenya.
"I hope to find a good job that will allow me to live and to be able to continue to follow the association's activities with serenity. In particular, I would like to open new Mental Health Centres in other cities and create a local coordination network. If all goes well, we will activate a virtual service, a telephone line to offer psychological support to those who cannot go to the counter or for all those who want confidential and anonymous counselling. We already have some volunteer specialists in Kenya and Italy who have made themselves available to offer this kind of service".
How can we not wish him well? Anyone wishing to lend Massimiliano a hand, in whatever form, and help him continue his work of solidarity in Kenya, can have a look at the on-africa.org website and write to him at email@example.com
Fatuma Freedom Precious does not have it done.
She passed away last night in Mombasa, where she had gone for the umpteenth checkup.
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