“In Greek, Arché means principle, but it's also the term that ancient philosophers used to speak about the origin of everything. In this case the start of a new life.”
Daily life and work
Daily life at CasArché depends on the individual situations: if a mother works, for example, she'll continue to do so and come back in the afternoon or evening; others leave in the morning to take their children to school. But the spirit is that of a community: everyone lives together and there are some rules that everyone needs to respect, like meal times, for example. And, as in all real communities, explains Federica, "the wonderful feeling of trust is noticeable in the little day-to-day things, like when people meet in the morning wearing pyjamas to prepare their coffee."
The educators assist Mariangela and the other mothers with their daily activities: for example, they help a new arrival to breastfeed her quadruplets, or they teach the more inexperienced mothers how to bathe their children. More generally, they support them with anything connected with their job as mothers, the most difficult, but the most wonderful, of all jobs.
The first year is normally about familiarisation and identifying a path forward beyond CasArché: the purpose of CasArché, in Dalila's words, "is the integration of mothers and children back into normal social life." This happens through the acquisition of new skills, an important contribution to which comes from the sewing workshop provided by the social organisation.
Another initiative has recently been established alongside this: a vegetable garden cultivated by the mothers and children. It's satisfying work, from the standpoint of seeing shoots grow and bear fruit, as well as the enjoyment of eating products grown with your own hands.
From the community to autonomy
The average length of stay at CasArché is around 18 months.
For the more fragile mothers, it's just the first step on a journey that will enable them to progress to semi-independent projects: in such cases they move – with their children, obviously – into one of the apartments the Foundation has in Milan, where they are supported on a part-time basis by the educators, rather than round-the-clock.
They then progress to the fully self-sufficient phase: also in this case Arché provides the living accommodation, to which the Corte di Quarto will soon be added, a 14-apartment building that's currently being built in the CasArché garden.
Today, Mariangela is living autonomously, but she didn't want to cut the ties that had been created: so while she's at school, she leaves her daughter at CasArché. But there's also something else that makes the educators even happier and prouder of their work: Mariangela often pops in out of the blue for a chat, possibly thanks to that affection which she'd never experienced anywhere else. It was a feeling that took a while to develop, but which has now well and truly taken root.