A mechanic for the others
At a meeting of the International Youth for a United World the need arose for people to help develop Fontem, in Cameroon, Africa. Among the occupations needed were some car mechanics. For a long time I felt the desire to make myself useful in helping others.
Finally, Project Africa gave me the opportunity. I had known Chiara Lubich since I was young, but it was important for me to hear the witnesses of the volunteers from Fontem who put into practice the invitation of Chiara to act concretely without using many words.
I wanted to so the same thing and left.
A choice of this kind involved a lot of challenges, such as leaving my job where I was a working as a mechanic for two years, learning the language, leaving all the comforts of my family and friends. All of this was overcome by my determination to go and with the support of close friends. So many people were touched with my decision to leave and sent me gifts that looked after many needs.
In the beginning I had to express myself with gestures but then I also made the effort to learn the language pretty quickly.
Another stumbling block were the habits and customs that were not European: completely changing eating habits was very hard for me but I had to do it or not knowing where to find certain foods or other necessities was also very hard but overcome by the love of all those around me. At first I could not even understand their ways of doing things but then I realized I had to lose my European mentality to embrace the African way. That step really helped me to live that year in Fontem well.
As regards the lack of means, I could talk for hours, but I will limit myself to one experience that made me feel part of that people. One afternoon I got a call from the hospital to fix a broken machine in the operating room. The anesthetist came running towards me explaining what happened. I understood that the life of a baby was at risk and depending on my reparation to keep him alive. The fear of failing to repair this machine and the burden of the child dying were overwhelming. At first I refused trying to make up an excuse, but his insistence paid off. I changed and went into the operating room to fix the machine. On my way in, I met the surgeon coming out. Needless to say, I feared the worst, instead he told me that the surgery went well. Once inside, I looked at the baby who was waking up and I asked the anesthetist how come the surgery had gone well. He explained that they had used the machine manually and so I realized that it was possibile to fix it, so calmly I got to work and repaired the fault.
When I returned back to my country, and reflected on my stay in Africa, I realized that Africa did not only ask me to give my life for others, but to also accept my failures!
Since then I have tried to reconsider all my efforts with proportion: for me now it is more important to love the people around me regardless of success or failure in what I do.