A very long journey is what Clarissa, a young graphic designer, took to “land” in Loppiano and discover the Youth Project.

She wears a cloud of colors; her eyes are bright, very black like her hair which carries streaks of blonde highlights. Her name is Clarissa and she comes from Honduras. To be precise, from the capital, Tegucigalpa. Her family, however, she is quick to point out, is originally from Costa Rica. Since last June, she has participated in the Loppiano YouthProject. However, she has been living in the little city for about three and a half years.

She says: “I was 17 when my parents told me we would come here, to Italy. I did not share their choice at all, because I had just finished high school and had begun university. I wanted to study graphic design; I was also considering going to the United States…. There was, Clarissa acknowledges, real cause to leave: her parents had found the courage to denounce a case of corruption they had witnessed, but this had placed their lives in real danger. Honduras is considered one of the most violent and dangerous countries in the Americas, due to the very high crime and murder rate. The dramatic occasion, however, turned out to be in a certain way fortunate: “From the focolare, they proposed that we participate in the ‘Loreto’ School for Families, here in Loppiano. This had always been the dream of my parents, but it was not mine! I am not very religious and I had never been part of the gen; I had gone with the Scouts!”

Her older brothers, with their respective families, moved to Canada and, within three months’ time, Clarissa found herself catapulted into the little city. She did not know Italian, enrollment in the university was already closed, the relationship with her boyfriend, interrupted. She was angry and even a little defensive: “I was afraid to go out and meet the young people of Loppiano, because I was afraid that they wanted to convert me!” she said. Thus, she spent an entire year in a kind of isolation, trying to spend her time studying the Italian language.

Finally, in September-October 2019, she managed to enter the Nemo Academy in Florence, an academy of digital arts, where she could learn to create cartoon animation with traditional techniques and in 3D and cultivate her creativity. But – when all was going so well — the pandemic arrived! “So, I was back home, alone, with distance learning. Design was the only relief valve…. I worked a lot. I was always drawing! Everything was the same, there were no more Saturdays or Sundays. On the one hand, my technique improved a lot, but on the other, my body began to react. I was getting sick a lot…. and then, I began to feel very, very sad.”

Her parents were worried, but Clarissa struggled in asking them for help. From a distance she vented with her sister, begging her to find her a psychologist. And so, it happened. “I told my sister that my problem was that I needed to find a balance between work and life, a balance between my things. My sister replied that it seemed to her that I just needed friendship. I presented my difficulties to her: I do not live in Florence, my companions are introverts like me, where I live there is no one. And she replied: ‘Are you really sure?’” The psychologist invited her to try, to really throw herself into trying. And this is how, through her mother, Clarissa discovered the Youth Project.

At first, she decided to spend a weekend there; the weekend turned into a week, a month, then…. “I had received a wonderful welcome from the other girls, and each time I was supposed to leave, I postponed the departure for their sake, so as not to make them feel bad. But the truth is, what really held me back, was that being here I found the best side of myself. I did everything I’ve always been afraid to do — without anxiety. Like how to make friends, something I hadn’t had in a long time. True friendship, with which you can go deep, confide the important things. And then, I had new experiences: like dancing or singing in front of people, playing my ukulele. I’m happy!”

Today, Clarissa lives in the house of the Youth Project with two German girls, three Italians, a Panamanian, an Argentine and a Slovak. They are between 18 and 25 years old. “Then, there are also the boys. We all arrived for different reasons – with completely different stories and experiences. But here you are accepted for who you are and you have the opportunity, the freedom, to take time to get to know yourself better. Everyone leaves a bit of themselves in the project. Even physical things. For example, I brought my plants and my budgerigar.”

 

 

Clarissa now dreams of going to Canada, to Ottawa, to her brothers, where she will attend another animation academy: “My dream,” she said, “is to become an artist and work for one of the big animation companies like Pixar or Disney.” Before leaving us, the question arose: “But then, did they try to convert you?” Clarissa smiled and replied: “No, but, thanks to one of my companions, I did draw near to God. And now I feel that he loves me.”

If you are curious to discover Clarissa’s works, visit her Instagram profile: https://www.instagram.com/clarartsss/

 

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