The offer of services to the citizens of Alta Val Trebbia is often scarce in quality and quantity. Yet, it is exactly in realities like these that the importance of participatory life is a key factor to improve the quality of life of the local population. Roberto Lucà, spokesman of the association Assottonese XXV Aprile explains what social participation means for the villages of Alta Valtrebbia.
When was Assottonese XXV Aprile born and what are its main goals?
The association was born on 25th April 2010 with the main aim of gathering the inhabitants of Ottone to organise information sessions about the topics which affect them the most. Among our activities we can mention the opening of the social organisation circolo Don camillo e Peppone, lthe institution of a cooperation network with all the organisations active in Val Trebbia, the osservatorio permanente: all these points aim at stimulating and enhancing social participation.
Who are the members of the association and how many people take part in your initiatives?
The people participating in our meetings are almost all local residents, ranging between the age of 30 to 70. Some are also involved in other forms of volunteering, with the Red Cross for example, and among our members there are artisans, pensioners, fiscalists, teachers, farmers and others.
What are the practical scopes of Assottonese?
We organise monthly meetings, which is already an important new element and an alternative to the general lack of confrontation and association which carachterises life in such small communities. Some initiatives are completely volunteer-based and range from keeping the town gardens tidy to organising social dinners at circolo Don Camillo e Peppone as well as the recent collection of goods for the populations of Cinque Terre which were victim of the floods at the beginning of November.
The initiatives we realised in the past one and a half year which were given the most prominence in the press were: gathering signatures in Ottone and the relative public information session, Don Andrea Gallo also took part in this meeting, setting up the osservatorio permanente which gathers different associations, such as Expo Alta Val Trebbia from Loco, Legambiente, No Tube Piacenza or La Goccia di Bobbio under the same umbrella. The osservatorio also organised the first edition of Il Richiamo del Trebbia (The Call of River Trebbia). Still on a voluntary basis, we produced a promotional brocuher to advertise seasonal events in Alta val Trebbia, thus creating a program of initiatives organised by different local associations: 10.000 copies of the promotional booklet were distributed over Genova and Piacenza and the neighbouring valleys.
Do you think it is possible to start this kind of association also in other villages of Alta Val Trebbia and would you be happy to provide advice to those considering applying the example of Assottonese to other realities too?
Yes of course. Making our way of working known to the public happens through our meetings and participatory organisations such as the osservatorio permanente. For this reason we think that participating in such meetings, where everyone can decide for himself wether they agree wiht our vision or not or wether changes to our proposals should be made, is the best way to provide advice tho those interested in our method. Actions such as volunteering for the victims of the floods or occupying Route 45 in order to ask for citizen rights rassegna stampa are part of a mechanism aiming at improving civil responsibility, an element which is often lacking in these villages. This is why I believe that a culture of participation is not only needed but even essential to local populations.
What role do foreigners play within Assottonese?
In Otten, as well as other village, foreigners play an important role in preventing the villages from becoming deserted. Their presence also ensures the continuation of essential services. Foreingers are active within the association just like anybody else.
What are the basic services the valley lacks the most?
Safety along Route 45 towards Piacenza, ambulatories and medical services but above all a project for a long-term environmentally friendly strategy aiming at boositng the economy of the valley.
How do you think these services can be achieved?
Only by active participation in local council and province-meetings and making one’s voice be heard. Local institutions often take decisions based on economic revenue, thus benefitting only a few, without taking into consideration the needs of the population.
What do you wish Val Trebbia for the future?
To gain full awareness of its historical and environmental heritage, which is at risk of being erased and stolen with no objections being raised: it is time to make your opinion be heard and make it available for common projects based on the heritage of Val Trebbia. It is for this reason that osservatorio permanente recently opened a citizen-institutions discussion, in cooperation with studio legale Fantigrossi of Piacenza, to make Alta Val Trebbia part of Unesco world heritage.
Website Assottonese XXV Aprile: http://www.assottonesexxvaprile.it/
Assottonese on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/assottonesexxvaprile
Article Trebbia and Unesco (Italian): http://issuu.com/corrierepadano/docs/corpad_28-07-11