Message from the Chair
Over the past 40 years, when a natural disaster has occurred in Italy, the Italian Canadian community has responded by forming committees and raising funds for victims: Friuli in 1976, Southern Italy in 1980, Molise in 2002, and Abruzzo in 2009.
On April 6, 2009, at 3:32 am, an earthquake struck Italy with the epicenter near the city of L'Aquila, in Abruzzo, damaging countless buildings in the medieval city. A total of 297 people died, and approximately 1,500 people were injured, while approximately 40,000 were left homeless.
I happened to be in Kyrgyzstan when the earthquake struck. I received a call from then Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking about the wellbeing of my relatives in Abruzzo. After assuring him that my relatives were safe, I introduced the subject of Canada’s participation in helping to rebuild the affected areas.
When back in Canada, the Prime Minister invited me to his office, where a number of funding opportunities were discussed. The conclusion was to build a much needed student centre at the University of L’Aquila, at a cost of $5 million.
By April 8, volunteers formed the Abruzzo Earthquake Relief Fund (AERF) under the leadership of Villa Charities Inc. Retired Canadian Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, an Abruzzese, was the Honourary Chair of the Committee.
Many appeals were made and events were held. Students learning Italian in the York and Toronto Catholic District School Boards through Centro Scuola raised an amazing $100,000. In February 2010, Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler, made a rare appearance as the principal guest and speaker at a luncheon that raised $600,000.
At that event, Laura Albanese, MPP, announced a further donation from the Province of Ontario for $500,000. The Carpenters Union Local 27 generously donated $100,000 and sponsored the Walk for Abruzzo in September that raised an additional $60,000.
A Villa Charities/AERF delegation travelled with Prime Minister Harper to L’Aquila in July of that year for the G8 summit. The Government of Canada joined the international response to the earthquake by announcing the $5 million Students’ Centre building at the University of L’Aquila.
The additional $2 million raised by the AERF Committee resulted, after considerable fact-finding, in a 2011 memorandum of understanding with the University of L’Aquila to fund specialized equipment for the Department of Biology.
The Research Centre for Molecular Diagnostics and Advanced Therapies at the University of Aquila was dedicated in May 2013 with the unveiling of a plaque thanking Canadian donors. Funding this equipment makes the university a research centre of excellence in Italy, strengthens the university, and therefore the city of L’Aquila.
When the earthquakes struck in Central Italy in August 2016, the volunteers with AERF wanted to again help, and realized that a newly named organization had to be formed. The Italy Earthquake Relief Fund was created.
I never cease to be amazed at the generosity and spirit of giving in our community when the need arises. Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to all of you for always making these projects successful.
Thank you, merci and mille grazie.
- Con Di Nino, Chair, TIERF
L’Aquila earthquake photo licensed under
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License