For ten years the Fattoria della Carità in Cortetano, a town of less than a hundred inhabitants on the outskirts of Cremona, has hosted a small community of unaccompanied foreign minors, who live here in a Caritas facility. For five years, many of them have chosen to participate in Pedalando Faticando, an educational project conceived by Mattia Ferrari centered on a bicycle trip that starts from Cremona and, along the Via Francigena, aims at Rome.
Mattia Ferrari is an educator for unaccompanied foreign minors. He has seen many young people, sometimes children, who arrived in Italy through makeshift routes. They arrived scared and alone, some of them were wounded and with burned hands, others – wounded inside by blows no less hard to bear. They are 17 or 15, some of them are even 12 years old. They come from Egypt, Senegal, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea and Albania. Arriving in Italy along the Balkan routes or aboard a rubber dinghy, these youth is welcomed by the community.
Mattia is one of those who works from his heart, as he believes in what he does. He could not see any longer destinies of the kids with whom he came into contact: receiving a minimum of education they work in construction to be able to earn some money to send back home.
“This thought haunts them as they arrive. They want to work and send money to their families, they don’t think of anything else”, tells us Mattia whom we reached by phone,” I was shocked by how the road was marked for everyone, as none of them would have a crossroads, a possibility, a choice to be made.”
The educator explains how distinct it can be for a minor to do something in life with a passion, a result of a conscious decision to take a different path. The Via Francigena became an idea of a journey and a new path to take, which he offered to his students. A journey together, an exterior and interior, aboard two wheels along the Via Francigena: this is how the project “Pedalando Faticando” (“Tough cycling”) was born.
Departing from Cremona with a rest stop in Fiorenzuola they made a roundtrip to Rome and back. A long journey with wind in your hair, smile on the face and changing landscapes around – a journey to recomfort and open up.
During their travel, the young people discovered the importance of the group, they learned to trust and open up, to become aware of the consequences of their choices. The Via Francigena served as a metaphor for the journey we take in life. In front of each junctions there are choices to be made: to continue on an regular path or rather take a variant.
We like to think that it may have been a case for Alì, a bricklayer from the age of 8 who arrived in Italy at 15. After the trip Ali chose to be a pizza-maker. Today he gives people joy with his pizzas and is happy about his choice.