Summer 2009



The Abruzzo Earthquake Affects Us All


by Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni



“There were almost 300 deaths in the earthquake tragedy, but tens of thousands of lives have been affected, throughout Abruzzo and around the world. ”This is the lasting impression that motivates Canadian Senator Consiglio Di Nino to be involved in efforts nationwide to raise funds in response to the Abruzzo earthquake.


Italian Canadian communities from Halifax to Vancouver responded instinctively to the news of the earthquake destruction on the night of April 6. Senator Di Nino joined an ad hoc committee of community leaders in the Greater Toronto Area to form the Abruzzo Earthquake Relief Fund. Within a few days this dedicated group had set in place a system to receive donations at the Columbus Centre, CIBC branches across the city, and the IC Savings branches in Woodbridge and Toronto. Receipts will be issued for all donations over 20 dollars. Similar action took place within the large Italian Canadian community in Montreal. The initial outpouring of donations in these large centres was not surprising, according to Senator Di Nino. “Italians everywhere have been affected. We respond as a family. We all want to do something to try to help.”


The response that touched the organizers most came from the students of schools in the York Catholic District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Alberto Di Giovanni, Director of Centro Scuola e Cultura Italiana, and a proud son of Abruzzo, encouraged the teachers and administrators in both systems to organize activities in the schools to raise funds for Abruzzo. By loonies and toonies, the children themselves have contributed a total of $65,000. At the time of this writing, their donations are still coming in. “This collection means more to me than a single big cheque from a wealthy donor,” Senator Di Nino says, “because the kids have learned about giving something to help people in need. They can feel connected to the children and families hurt by the earthquake.”


Because of his position in Ottawa, Senator Di Nino has become the de facto spokesperson for Abruzzo earthquake fundraising efforts across Canada. He plans to make contact with communities in B.C., Alberta, and Manitoba, as well as the Windsor-Hamilton-Toronto corridor in Ontario, and Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. By combining their funds, the amount available from Canada will enable a significant rebuilding project in Abruzzo. Just what form that may take depends on the needs identified by local authorities in Italy. It may take some time before a final decision can be made. Quite literally, “the dust has to settle.” Coordination and cooperation will result in a more substantial project than a number of small, scattered contributions. Whether the result is a new school, or a senior’s home, or a fountain restored to its historic beauty, the donation by Canadians will be made “dal Canada con amore.”


Senator Di Nino emphasized one particular message: “The Italian community is sending its support to show that we felt the horrible pain of the tragedy, that we have all been affected, and we want the people of l’Aquila and the 49 other affected towns to know that we are with them through this terrible time.” It is the warmth of that personal message that will give hope to the survivors as they grieve their losses and reconstruct their lives.

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