Federica Beretta, 25 years, from Milano
Recent graduate in Medicine and Surgery, Rome campus
I didn’t know what Mal d’Afrique was. Now I have returned to my everyday life, I do. I think it is that knot in my stomach every time I think about Africa, a sense of emptiness, as if I had left a part of myself there. It leaves me feeling slightly lonely amid the chaos that surrounds me and sends me into deep thought and reflection that others can’t comprehend because it is difficult to make them understand the significance of your experience.
I didn’t think the Charity Work Program could have such an effect on me. It allowed me to grow, to see the real value of the things we often take for granted in our society and in our routines and, at the same time, also to appreciate the little things in life, from a simple smile to a caress, to a word of comfort.
My most amazing experience was delivering, on my own, a beautiful baby boy, having been given the chance to help with the birth of a child. Then something happened that I don’t think would happen anywhere else in the world: the father said to me “what is your father called?”, and I said: “Paolo, like my maternal grandfather and also my second name”, and he replied: “Ok, we will call our child Paulo in your honour”. I was struck dumb, I couldn’t believe it,
my heart melted when I heard those words and I still hear from the mother every week who sends me photos of little Paulo and calls me “Auntie Fede”. These are the kind of things that can happen in Africa, special and unique emotions that stay with you forever.
I will miss lots of things but especially the children with their genuine smiling eyes, their hugs that transmitted all their affection, their happiness just at seeing me and them calling me “muzngu” (European man).
I can say that Africa has changed me, has left an indelible mark on me that will stay with me forever and help me to become a better person. I will return as soon as I can because the emotions I felt there I had never felt anywhere else. Thank you Africa!