In 2021, everyone hospitalised at the Sant’Orsola will receive the gift of a book. A companion to help them get through difficult days and discover something new. This is the Fondazione Sant’Orsola project for 2021. An idea that stemmed from the voluntary work of the non-profit organisation and was developed together with Coop Alleanza 3.0 consultant Romano Montroni, chair of the scientific committee of the Centro per il Libro e la Lettura.
The initiative was made possible thanks to the generosity of three sponsors – BPER Banca, the Unipol Group and UniSalute – and the kindness of the publishing houses of the Mondadori Group, who agreed to print 24,000 volumes. Three books have been published: Jane Austen, Emma; Jack London, Martin Eden; Cesare Pavese, La casa in collina. Three classics, three books to read and re-read.
The project was also supported by the Centro per il libro e la lettura, an autonomous body of the Italian Ministry for Culture, and will be endorsed by author Gianrico Carofiglio, who has recognised the importance of the initiative, the first of its kind in Italy.
As soon as the health emergency has ended and the wards are re-opened, the volunteers of the Fondazione Sant’Orsola will present the books to the patients. Until then, distribution will be organised with the assistance of the clinic’s nursing staff, who will ask incoming patients to choose one of the three books when they are assigned a bed. The Fondazione Sant’Orsola website will host a virtual community of readers, where views on the three books and other reading material can be shared.
“Books are essential to a person’s development,” explains the president of Fondazione Sant’Orsola, Giacomo Faldella, “but also to their well-being: some patients bring a book with them, and they see it as a life jacket before making a crossing on a stormy sea; or, more simply perhaps, as a friend to keep them company. However, many patients aren’t in the habit of reading, or for some reason were unable to bring a book with them.”
“In Britain, bibliotherapy has long been a recognised activity,” says Romano Montroni. “The National Health Service has a department set up for the specific purpose of using reading to foster well-being. The relationship between a person’s health and art is also deeply rooted in our own culture; in the early Italian hospitals, like Santa Maria della Scala in Siena, the sick and pilgrims were accommodated and treated in rooms that over the centuries had been decorated by the city’s great painters and sculptors, so the patients were literally “immersed” in beauty. In other words, well-being was regarded in a broad sense, not simply in medical-physical terms.”
“The first thing that someone experiencing a period of difficulty or illness should perhaps try and do is look after themselves,” adds Enrico Selva Coddè, CEO of Einaudi and Mondadori Libri Trade. “It sounds easy, but sometimes it’s impossible. So a simple gesture can help, which is to open a book and absorb yourself in the voice speaking from its pages. A voice dedicated to us, as an indissoluble combination of flesh and imagination. Three classics, because they are like old friends we enjoy seeing again, classics that, as Italo Calvino said, are books people usually say they are ‘re-reading’, not that they are ‘reading’.” Whether it is the wit and irony of Jane Austen, the courage and tenacity of Jack London, the realism and melancholy of Cesare Pavese, these books will certainly help their readers feel less alone.”
Exactly one year ago, Fondazione Sant’Orsola brought together around twenty volunteers – former booksellers, retired teachers, people who love reading – to set up the Libri in corsia project. In just a few weeks, the 1,745 books in the wards had been mapped to create an online catalogue patients could use to request a book located in another ward; the volunteers would then fetch it for them. The pandemic meant that, for reasons of safety, books could no longer be swapped in the hospital. But the Fondazione Sant’Orsola volunteers did not give up: they decided that if books could not be borrowed, they could always be offered as a gift.
This led to the idea being launched today, thanks to the generosity of the sponsors and the publishing houses of the Mondadori Group. An idea that the Fondazione Sant’Orsola volunteers have decided to take a step further with a new project Provo a dirlo con un libro. The Sant’Orsola website today has a catalogue of more than 250 books reviewed by the volunteers. Patients can ask for one of the books, or for one of the titles that have not yet been reviewed, and the volunteers will get it to them within 24 hours. Meanwhile, everyone can post comments and reviews on the catalogue, to build up the online community of readers.
22 June 2021