Francesca Rava Foundation

2023 Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Fraternity among Peoples

For its commitment since 2000 in emergency interventions following humanitarian and natural disasters in Italy and Latin America (in cooperation with Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos) and for specific initiatives taken in favour of children in Latin America to combat educational and food shortages.

The Francesca Rava Foundation has been working in Italy since 2000. In Latin America, it collaborates as representative in Italy for the collection of finalized resources for NPH Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, an international organisation founded in 1954 by Father W. Wasson, an American priest, professor, and lawyer who took in a child thief discovered stealing offerings in his church, driven by hunger and misery. One child became eight and in almost 70 years thousands of children have found care, education, food, and the love of a family in nine NPH Homes in Latin America.
Through a remarkable network of specialised volunteers, the Francesca Rava Foundation intervenes in emergencies affecting children and their families, in synergy with the institutions and civil society. The collaboration between the Foundation and the Italian Navy started immediately after the devastating earthquake that struck very poor Haiti in 2010. On that occasion, the NPH Saint Damien Children’s Hospital, built and supported by the Francesca Rava Foundation, was the only one operational on the island, besides the international relief centre and advanced base of the ship Cavour in Port-au-Prince. The synergy with the Italian Civil Protection Department began in 2016 in the hours following the earthquake in Central Italy, where the Foundation rebuilt eight schools. The ongoing humanitarian commitment of the Francesca Rava Foundation has, over time, confirmed its institutional credibility for the Italian Republic.
From Italy, through fundraising, long-distance adoptions, and various initiatives, it supports the nine Latin American countries (Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Dominican Republic) where NPH is present, but it is particularly committed to Haiti, a Fourth World country where more than half the population suffers from malnutrition, one in three children dies before the age of five from treatable diseases, and one in two does not go to school. With the support that comes from Italy, aid is also brought to local communities with the distribution of water and food, the start-up and support of social businesses to create jobs and provide professional training, and the establishment of schools and medical clinics in rural areas and remote provinces.

Some of the Francesca Rava Foundation’s most successful initiatives with NPH are:

  • in the Dominican Republic, the Casa San Marcos clinic, a facility built entirely with Italian aid, for the rehabilitation of severely disabled children;
  • in Honduras, at the Casa De Los Angeles in Tegucigalpa, the activation of the enteral nutrition programme for disabled children with severe brain damage who are abandoned by their families because they are no longer able to assist them;
  • in Haiti, the Saint Damien Hospital, the only pediatric hospital on the island, which cares for 80,000 children a year, with training programmes for local staff through partnerships with Italian hospitals of excellence. Inaugurated in 2006 and built in just three years, it is a reference centre for the entire island. The hospital is located in Tabarre, a suburb on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince, and was built by the Francesca Rava Foundation to an Italian design. The structure was designed like that of a First World hospital and according to the most modern anti-seismic criteria. During the earthquake of January 2010, the hospital withstood the terrible impact by remaining habitable and becoming the health reference centre for the island and for interna- tional relief operations. In accordance with the empowerment philosophy that characterises all the Foundation’s projects, the hospital works with an entirely Haitian staff, which over time has been trained by international tu- tors, doctors and other NPH volunteer professionals, to run the facility inde- pendently and provide excellent care to poor children.

The focus on Latin America is very important for Europe and Italy because geographical areas such as Africa, the Middle East and Asia are already reached by many other NGOs.
The person is at the centre of every action, as are the rights of children, the defence of human dignity, sharing, brotherhood, and equality, against all forms of discrimination. Faithful to the motto “One child at a time, from the street to graduation”, the Foundation also helps through long-distance adoption to sup- port each child to grow in their uniqueness, enhancing their talents so that they can become responsible and autonomous citizens, capable of taking care of themselves and their families, others, and their country. Independent of any political or denominational affiliation, fundraising is aimed at well-identified projects with precise objectives that the Foundation is committed to carrying out in a short time for the benefit of the children and with respect for the donors. The Francesca Rava Foundation’s commitment in the poorest countries of Latin America is based on the conviction that it is possible to really change the lives of many children by raising them according to the principles of responsibility and sharing of the NPH Houses, giving them the possibility of development both in their studies and in learning a trade, so that in the future they will be competent and recognised experts operating in their countries of origin to counteract the cycle of poverty and lack of education, with the help of international partnerships. The same applies to the rescue and protection of migrant children in the Mediterranean.
The institutional recognition of the Italian Republic is very important, in particular, the partnership with both the Italian Navy and the Italian Civil Protection Department. The collaboration has continued with numerous initiatives, including the provision of medical assistance by the Foundation’s volunteer doctors on board Navy ships during rescue operations in the Mediterranean and the training of on-board medical personnel by the same volunteer doctors. By virtue of this important cooperation, the Foundation’s trustworthness has become better known to the public, and it is currently the humanitarian partner of the Italian Navy’s training sailing vessel Amerigo Vespucci’s round-the-world voyage (started from the port of Genoa in July 2023). In May 2023, during the National Day of the Sea, at the Castelporziano presidential estate in Rome, the Foundation was the guest of honour of the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, to talk about its numerous social and environmental projects and its many years of commitment to the seas. In its missions to help the Italian population after the earthquakes in L’Aquila, Emilia, and Central Italy, the Francesca Rava Foundation raised funds for the construction and opening of eight schools (earthquake-proof structures made with natural materials).

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