In 2019, some Seventh-day Adventist church members and their acquaintances from other faiths in Italy decided to launch a humanitarian agency called Felicittà (literally, “Happy City”). Their goal was to implement social projects in the city of Perugia, Umbria. The group behind the initiative found a place with reduced rent, friends who donated their time and expertise to help, and some donors who believed in the project in that central region of the country.
The Felicittà project offers residents an open place with space for sharing and co-working. Felicittà offices soon became headquarters of several associations: some dealing with disabilities, others with music, others with health and various services. It also included Adventist organizations such as the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Umbria, Vita e Salute, and Reach Italia, which gave them local visibility. ADRA activities in the area, which have outgrown the local Adventist church, were transferred to the new offices.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ADRA office has grown significantly and has become well established in the area. Many people who know ADRA offer their help. “In the last few days, we received a donation of 600 kilograms [more than 1,300 pounds] of high-quality Grana Padano cheese,” said Marko Hromis, ADRA Umbria director and co-founder of Felicittà. “And, a few weeks ago, [we also received] more than 100 kilograms [220 pounds] of top-quality meat, besides the regular donations by supermarkets and the regular supplies by a local food bank and other organizations.”
According to Hromis, ADRA has become known as an agency that is attentive to the needs in the area. “ADRA is also fighting against widespread poverty by giving good use to food surpluses according to a zero-waste policy,” he shared. “The agency has established a multi-layered collaboration between local relief and anti-poverty agencies.”
Stories about some of the people helped are sobering but heart-warming, Felicittà officers said. “A man, for instance, lives in a tin shack near the railway tracks,” they shared. “He is a middle-aged bricklayer who fell and hit his head in at an illegal construction site. He suffered a neuronal condition that led him to spend days in a row bedridden. ADRA volunteers have supported him, and now he has managed to get back to work. We are now looking to provide him with better accommodation.”
Regional ADRA leaders also shared the story of five disadvantaged families all living in the same building. “Every time ADRA volunteers arrive with some assistance, those families take to the street to celebrate. Real friendships have been formed,” they shared.
Recently, Felicittà appealed to residents to donate food and other items. Many responded, and the pantry shelves were filled. It is something that has supported the mission of the organization during the pandemic, leaders said.
“The needs are huge, and our energy is limited,” Hromis said. “Requests for help never end!”
Hromis shared that as they tour the region, they can see people acknowledge and express appreciation for what they are doing. “There are lawyers, managers, entrepreneurs, and various professionals, all ready to help without asking anything in return,” Hromis said. “God has opened up paths where we hadn’t imagined. The needs are many, but God always provides!”