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CHILDREN

Italy ranks 12th best place to be a mother

Italy is the 12th best place in the world to be a mother, according to Save the Children’s annual scorecard, ahead of Switzerland, Singapore, the UK and the US.

Italy ranks 12th best place to be a mother
Italy is the 12th best place in the world to be a mother. Photo: Shutterstock

Somalia is the worst place, just below the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

Save the Children released its 16th annual Mothers' Index, which rates 179 countries based on five indicators related to maternal health, education, income levels and the status of women.

Norway came top, followed by Finland, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden.

This year, the United States dropped from number 31 on the list to 33, behind Japan, Poland and Croatia.

American women have a one in 1,800 risk of maternal death, the worst level of risk of any developed country in the world, according to the report.

An American woman is more than ten times as likely to die in childbirth than a Polish woman.

Among the top ten, Australia is the only non-European country, at number nine.

France and Britain take the 23rd and 24th spot, below Canada at number 20.

Meanwhile, a recent survey of expat mums in Italy also revealed almost 50 percent preferred their adopted country for raising children and never planned to return to their home country to live.

Read more: Life's better in Italy, say expat mums

 

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CHRISTMAS

Rome’s ‘Geppetto’ on fixing broken toys for underprivileged children

Frayed teddy bears and broken toy cars resurrect under the magic touch of Guido Pacelli, a modern-day Geppetto who works overtime so that Rome's poor and sick children wake up to a gift on Christmas morning.

Rome's 'Geppetto' on fixing broken toys for underprivileged children
Photo: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP

Armed with a screwdriver, a microscope and a small welder, “Guido Aggiustagiocattoli”, a.k.a Guido the Toy Fixer, has mended between 50 and 70 toys a day these past two months, in preparation for the festive season.

“The best present for me is when these children who have been through so much smile at me,” said Pacelli, a 68-year-old retired aviation technician from Italy's flagship airline Alitalia.

READ: Six quirky Italian Christmas traditions you should know about

Once up and running, the repaired toys are meticulously disinfected, carefully wrapped and labelled for the families. Salvamamme (Save Mothers), which hosts Pacelli's workshop in premises lent by the Italian Red Cross, then distribute the gifts to poor, migrant or sick children.

Pacelli remembers a Caterpillar tractor he repaired for a little boy. “He called me every day until I managed to repair it,” said Pacelli, a volunteer for the charity since an early retirement in 2011.

Photo: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP

“People leave batteries in and they oxidate,” he said, as he changes those of a green plastic electric guitar, extracted from a pile of soft toys, mini computers and wind-chimes for children.

READ: How Christmas dinner changes depending where you are in Italy

Nicknamed Geppetto — the creator of Pinocchio in Carlo Collodi's novel — because of his blue overalls and glasses, Pacelli plays an essential role in the charity.

“This toy was even sent by the manufacturer because it was faulty. I've mended it and now it will go to a child in a hospital,” said Pacelli.

20,000 toys a year 

“We distribute more than 20,000 toys a year,” said Maria Grazia Passeri, head of Salvamamme which also hands out food, nappies and clothes to families with very little means.

The products come from official organisations, hospitals or local parishes. Passeri, wrapped in a red shawl, said that she founded the charity 20 years ago to help “all these women who give birth in secret or go through horrible experiences”.

On distribution day at Salvamamme, mothers fill out forms and children amuse themselves amongst the piles of parcels ready to be sent and play with toys awaiting Pacelli's intervention, stacked in heaving piles.

Many former beneficiaries who manage to lift themselves out of poverty become volunteers at Salvamamme. Jonathan, a 29-year-old Argentinian, arrived in Italy 12 years ago without work or a family to start a new life. “I am very grateful, I will never forget the help I received.

All my free time I give it to the association,” he said. Anna Moticala has a family of five to feed, three of whom are children. She arrived from Moldova to Rome eight years ago and is unemployed. She is also grateful for the charity.

“I asked for a little help and they helped me enormously,” she said, above the sound of children's laughter as they play and gobble down a slice of Pandoro, a typical Italian Christmas dessert.

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