Sailors from the “Golden Eagles” of Patrol Squadron (VP) 9 spent an afternoon volunteering at a Sicilian orphanage on December 11, 2015. Sailors from the squadron sponsored every one of the 18 children, and had spent the week prior to the visit choosing presents and necessities to gift wrap and bring to the Giovanna Sava Institute.
Located in Catania, Sicily the Institute takes in troubled youth and provides psychology, education, and life training so that they may become healthy, happy members of society.
Carmelo Signorello, one of the chairman of the boards for the institute , who is in charge of how the organization is run and the planning for the children’s future, agreed to sit down with me for an interview on what the institute is and how it helps the children. You can listen to a snippet of the audio from that interview below:
Signorello explained that the institute is so important for children because “It gives kids a future they otherwise wouldn’t have, coming from a family with a background that is hard for them.”
The kids at the institute are there because the courts had decided that their current family situation was too difficult for them. As Sailors interacted with the kids, it was impossible to tell that these kids had come from a difficult home.
“They’re all taken temporarily from the family due to various reasons,” said Signorello. “It can be negligence, economic reason, also for poverty, lack of going to school, lack of means, means in general.”
The institute features a lot of indoor space, including a church, an industrial kitchen, an eating hall, two large playrooms and enough room for 100 children, which at one point it held after World War II. On the grounds, a playground with a soccer court and plenty of room to run around assures the kids are always able to find something to do.
“We want these kids to know that they are not the last, that they aren’t’ different from other kids,” said Signorello.
When speaking about the family hardships these children face, Signorello is hopeful for their future, saying “We want to break the chain so that they link stops there. They can become healthy individuals and when they have their own families, they will make healthy family and healthy choices.”
Throughout the day, the kids played soccer with the Sailors and performed a small skit for them. They sat for lunch with the volunteers, dishing out a pasta and a meat course that they had all helped prepare. Finally, when it was time to present the gifts, one of the Sailors dressed as Santa Clause and gave each child a pile of presents.
When asked why its important for these kids to meet the Sailors and interact with them, Signorello said, “(The Sailors) are young, and they show them the possibilities of what they have to look forward to. They’re people who left their homes young, and they give them courage and hope for their own future.”
Photo by Amber Porter