In 1983 when the tiny Waldensian Church was offered the Fattoria I Graffi, since 1971 property of Casa Cares, the church leadership hesitated to accept the donation. The big question was, “For what?” Now, over thirty years later, the same question returns, “For what?” This is due partly to the need for regular reassessment and renewal and also to the imminent retirement of Antoinette and Paul Krieg, who have been responsible for the facility since 1985. A long time! We two are the first to acknowledge that it is time for change, probably significant.
Actually Antoinette, while still “on campus,” has been retired for several years and has managed to reduce her involvement substantially. Paul is due to leave in mid-summer 2015. That may not seem so “imminent” but it is not so far off considering the work to be done in the meantime.
At first the Casa Cares board, up to seven members but currently five, thought to start in March the process of searching for a replacement or replacements for Antoinette and Paul, but in speaking with the Tavola Valdese, the board of the national church, it was clear that priority needs to be given to a thorough assessment of the work that has been done and future possibilities. For that reason the replacement search has been postponed. Instead an effort is being made to form a study group that can critically examine what the future direction of Casa Cares might be. The two boards, Casa Cares and national church, have already shared the results of a SWOT analysis. This looks at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. In a PowerPoint presentation the purpose and identity that have sustained the center for thirty years are evident. Should that purpose and identity remain unchanged? Even if confirmed, what form responds to today's needs? For anyone interested, upon request this PowerPoint presentation in available.
In the meantime life goes on as normal. We are currently finishing what is typically the busiest time of year, from May through July and this year into August: various single guests, USA university graduate seminar, Swiss Steinerschule, Italian music teachers, USA tour group, our children's and youth summer camps, German high school choir, violin camp for children, Austrian Lutheran family retreat. Some of these are already on the 2015 calendar.
The four refugees we mentioned in the previous note are still here and could well be for a long time. It is a serious dilemma for them and for all of Europe. Athough not meant to be volunteers, the four men (Senegal, Togo and two Bangladesh) willingly pitch in when asked and have been good company. In these summer weeks they are joined by elderly guests (Giulietta di 93!) who escape the heat and humidity of the summer of the city and make their own unique contribution to the Casa Cares mix.
Fortunately the staff has again been up to the task. Cristina takes care of the hospitality, Iris and Eugenio put great food on the table, much from Girodano's glorious garden, and Beppe patches things up in this historic villa. Beppe, with outside skilled workers and the volunteers, has had the pleasure of concluding the major steps of the theater-chapel renovations. This has been going on for years, and there are still many details with which to deal, but to see the lighting and heating in place, the bathroom ready, and, especially, the completed floor of the old terracotta tiles and oak, is very satisfying. The Italian music teachers and the German choir have tested the space, including the acoustics, and are extremely enthusiastic. We are sure that in these coming weeks the violin teachers, the Austrian church group, and a Florence youth theater group will have the same reaction.