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WWF Italy sponsors school kids' bid to buy paradise isle

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The school children from Biella launched the campaign to raise the €3m needed to buy Budelli in February. Photo: Facebook
15:30 CET+01:00
A fund-raising campaign by a group of school children in Piedmont to buy a paradise island on behalf of the Italian government has caught the attention of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which has agreed to sponsor the initiative.

The support from the conservation association comes just weeks after the children from the middle school in Mosso, a small town in the Alpine province of Biella, started a crowdfunding campaign to buy Budelli, part of the idyllic Maddalena archipelago which lies between Sardinia and Corsica.

They said that if every Italian child pitches in €0.50 then they could club together to raise the €3 million needed to buy the island, which they would name ‘isola dei ragazzi' (the children's island).

As well as the WWF, their social media campaign, called ‘Non si s-Budelli l'Italia', also caught the eye of private donors around the world, with one from the Netherlands giving €3,000, Today.it reported.

WWF Italia took to Twitter on Monday to announce the agreement.

The island, famous for its pink sandy beach and considered the most beautiful in the Mediterranean, was almost taken over by Michael Harte, a banker from New Zealand who paid €2.94 million when it was put up for auction in 2013.

A group of Italian schoolchildren want to buy Budelli. Photo: Christopher Sammer

Harte, said to have been in love with the archipelago for years, had carefully drawn up conservation plans to ensure its ecosystem was protected.

But needless to say, his offer drew protest by local politicians, who appealed to the government to bring the paradise, whose previous owner had gone bankrupt, back under state control.

A court in Sardinia overturned a ruling allowing the sale in 2014, and the government then passed a law that enabled the state to buy it back.

The government reimbursed Harte but he successfully appealed, and in October last year Italy's National Park Authority was told to hand the island back to him, while giving him 60 days to pay his original offer price. But Harte has since renounced his dream.

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The idea for the school campaign came about when a teacher asked the pupils to read the news in a February edition of La Stampa for discussion.

They picked up on the story about Budelli, prompting a conversation about its rich history and what fate might befall it.

“We read about the businessman trying to buy it and at the point we thought ‘we could make the dream of maintaining it in public hands a reality',” student Francesca Grillo said in February.

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