Monday we continued our tour of the grounds and learned more about the philosophy behind the San Pa program. Yesterday was spent hanging out with the kids and the teens during WeFree celebration at San Pa.
We toured the kennels on Monday. One of San Pa’s social enterprises is training therapy dogs. They also take in retired police dogs and strays. They have about 140 dogs on the premises and the crew spends their days socializing with the dogs, training them and making them feel loved and welcome.
Before San Pa was San Pa, it was a vineyard. After its transition to a community, San Pa retained the vineyards as one of its social enterprises. The wine produced by San Pa is renowned and has won several awards. The process is quite extensive. In August it is typically slow for several sectors in the community because most of Italy goes on Holiday or “vacanza” for the month. Thus, most of San Pa’s outside customers are closed and that translates to down-time for many departments at San Pa. For those residents who find themselves with slow work during that time they often help harvest the grapes in the vineyards. Thus begins the elaborate process of crushing the grapes, removing impurities and fermenting in oak barrels in a climate-controlled cellar. When ready, the wines are bottled, corked, labeled and shipped throughout the world.
We passed by the stables where the cows (used for producing milk for the cheese made at San Pa) and the pigs (used for meat and sausage sold to the public or used to feed the residents) but did not have the time for a tour. Neither did we have the opportunity to view the equine sector where the horses are used for therapy, breeding and show. Perhaps on another day.
Tuesday was a big day at San Pa – WeFree Days 2017. WeFree Days is a two-day event designed to be both educational and fun for teens across Italy. Over 3,000 students attended the festivities! There were dance performances, theater, music, art and crafting events for the students. For the adults there was a public forum with speakers from a variety of disciplines to discuss ideas and issues surrounding drugs, educational systems and prevention. The students had a wonderful time and really appreciated the interaction of the San Pa residents discussing their stories with drugs and the dangers of addiction. It was quite moving!
As I have mentioned earlier, one of the most rewarding parts of this workshop is the opportunity to be present with the residents. I have spent countless hours having conversations with many residents – Dylan, Tom, Scott, Mark, Edo, Gustavo – to name a few. We’ve shared some laughs, sure, but we’ve also shared our stories. I’ve answered many questions about my journey in recovery, told my history and shared what I’ve learned during the process. The value of human connection, empathy and fellowship cannot be underestimated. We all struggle with the same challenges, we all share in the same joys.
We are family, regardless of the language barriers, because love overcomes all obstacles.