By Linda Bordoni
“Blue Café” is the name of the lovely sailboat destined to provide occupational therapy, work and autonomy to young people with disabilities.
After its official inauguration on Friday, 5 April, in Sicily, the boat will be available to all Italian non-profit organizations that promote projects involving people with disabilities, allowing them to spend leisure time engaged in workshops and sports.
But there is more to the story than that.
The “Blue Café” really is a “special” boat, as it was confiscated from human traffickers illegally transporting migrants into Europe.
There were 72, mostly African men, women and children fleeing conflict and poverty on board when Italian naval authorities caught up with the traffickers and confiscated the vessel.
It has since been entrusted to the Sicilian non-profit organization, “La Casa di Toti” which was founded by Muni Sigona to help her autistic son and other girls and boys with disabilities, prepare to deal with life and be self-sufficient.
"The Blue Cafe will bring smiles to these special children who will be able to sail the Mediterranean on board of this sailboat, but above all, will be able to be part of a project that has neither physical nor mental barriers " she said.
As Muni told Linda Bordoni, the “Ethical Boat” project is in fact part of a wider project that includes a Solidarity Hotel run by disabled adults.
The "Solidarity Hotel"
Muni explained that the “Solidarity Hotel” is an ethical project that will be managed by disabled people: “a place where they can live and they can work”.
“It will be a hotel in the Sicilian town of Modica open to all people who have a big heart” she said.
She explained that through fundraising and crowd-funding the organization has managed to build the hotel which is nearing completion, and that the “Blue Café” boat represents an integral part of that project.
She spoke of her wish to transform a hard and negative story that speaks of fear and exploitation – as the boat was used by traffickers to smuggle desperate people on a dangerous journey – into a story of hope and renewal as that very boat will be used to provide joy and future.
Muni revealed that the judiciary authorities in the southern Italian region of Apulia entrusted the boat to the organization, and that from now on, it will be available to all Italian organizations promoting ethical projects and involving people with disabilities.
“I saw this big boat and I thought of my guys with physical problems and thought: it will be good for them” she said.
One important things to point out, she said, is that it is a non-profit venture meaning that no participant will be asked to pay.
From a bad story to a beautiful one
Muni also revealed that there are many facets to her story, and tells of how two African migrants spent about one year in her home helping her to take care of her disabled son, Toti.
“They lived with us for a year and it gave me the chance to get to know them” she said pointing out that they really understood what it means to deal with problems. She said they gave her not only help, but also that extra input and desire to transform a bad story into a beautiful story.
Muni concludes reflecting on the Pope’s reiterated appeal to all men and women of goodwill to nurture a culture of inclusion.
She said, when it comes to bringing up a disabled child, things are very difficult as after the child has finished school, he or she almost always becomes isolated and dependent as there are very few options within society for people who are mentally or physically challenged.
It is also very hard for the families, she said, that’s why one of the main aims of her NGO is to get companies and workplaces to include these girls and boys in their workforce “Because they can do it, they can do it!”