There are changes in the air, more on that later, so it is important to note that for 2015 Casa Cares is alive and well. The year has begun well with a seminar of young German volunteers placed for a year in various Waldensian centers around the country. At Casa Cares we have two who form the backbone of our volunteer staff, right now complemented by two Americans, an Italian and a Senegalese.
Officially the season again began with the Waldensian festivities mid-February commemorating the granting of civil liberties in 1848 to religious minorities in Italy, which was then in the process of becoming a unified country. There were only two such groups. The beneficiaries were the Jews, freed from their ghetto in Turin, and the Waldensians, freed from their de facto ghetto in the Alps. The festivities, open to the public, always include a conference preceded by a buffet and followed by the traditional bonfire.
March begins with the first of two post-graduate seminars on counseling organized previously by Old Dominion University in Virginia and now by Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans. Regis University, also a Catholic institution, is involved in the coordination. In March we also host an adult retreat offered by the local Catholic diocese of Fiesole, a youth retreat of a Swiss Reformed church, and a yoga seminar. Individual guests will be staying with us as well.
So we are off to a good start, certainly thanks to our employees as well as to our volunteers. Iris and Eugenio are in the kitchen, Beppe in maintenance and Cristina managing the hospitality.
Looking further ahead from 14-24 September we are hosting a “second tier” Tuscan tour. This was requested and organized by friends who have been on our standard immersion in Tuscany who wanted to go deeper into this spectacular region. We shall go to Florence and San Gimignano, but the other locations are not typically visited by groups moving through Italy: Pienza, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Volterra, Sant'Antimo, Cortona, and Arezzo. In the midst is a two-day visit to Cinque Terre. The tour is open to anyone and information is available upon request.
At the same time we are organizing a typical tour in the second half of October that includes Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, Pisa, two days in Florence, Greve in Chianti, and a local weekly market. Also for this information is available.
Regarding the future of Casa Cares, a study group has been working for the last four months aiming at presenting its proposal to the district church administration in June. Of various possibilites ranging from closure to major overhaul of buildings and purpose, the group seems to be tending toward a solution of improving what has been the effective and appreciated hospitality over the years while adding a clearer element of typical social service which is fundamental to the church. Of the various possibilities, for example, one is working with immigrant youth.
We have just received the results of a project mapping out a hiking course from Piemonte in the North to Rome visiting numerous locations that welcome Woofers volunteers (Workers on Organic Farms). It is well done: www.ammappalitalia.it.