Monthly Archives: May 2013

Erri & Gino…


Strada: “In Africa only Emergency provides quality cardiac surgery for free. Civilized countries don’t lift a finger”

Fund raising in Brussels to buy cardiac valves to send to the hospital in Sudan.

Erri De Luca: “There blood doesn’t scream; it’s thankful. It saves lives that were about to be thrown out”

Erri De Luca

Erri De Luca

For Erri De Luca what remains above all is “the smell of blood.” From that visit to the hospital in Khartoum in Sudan, this is what first comes to mind: the moment in which Gino Strada insisted he enter the operating room with him to watch an open heart surgery and he smelled it for the first time. An “age-old and unknown” smell, accounts the writer in his style, “the same smell from 1900, the century in which the largest amount of human blood was lost.” But in Khartoum, continues De Luca, “the blood didn’t scream: it smiled and was thankful because a restitution occurred –lives that were about to be thrown out.”

18,000 people’s lives are at risk of being thrown out, mostly children, who in Africa continue to suffer cardiac disease. The main cause of the pathology is lack of preventative care which would stop early symptoms of rheumatic fever. So the only chance of saving becomes substituting the cardiac valve with surgery. But these valves cost and until recently hospitals capable of this type of operation didn’t exist in Africa.

Emergency took care of the hospital and opened the center “Salam” in 2007; it is still the only hospital on the continent to offer high-quality cardiac surgery for free and because of this in the last few years has become the destination for patients of more than 23 different countries. As far as the artificial valves go however, we must provide them. This is required of Prima Persona, a political and cultural association headed by the VP of the European Parliament, Gianni Pittella, who decided to launch a fundraiser to purchase and send the valves to the Salam hospital.

 “We have already collected some but we will proceed with the campaign” requested Pittella, presenting the initiative to the European Parliament today. “Every 2-3 thousand Euro we can buy a valve and every valve is a life” he reminds us. In Khartoum the Euro MP went in person. “The reality we saw is beyond any stretch of the imagination – he accounts – 300,000 people live there in tents made with mud in the midst of excrements, trash and animals with a temperature that exceeds 50-60 degrees. They are aided by only one cardio surgery hospital in all of Africa.” Up against this “we cannot be silent.” For this, Pittella adds, Gino Strada and his team’s work is important; “not only does it save human lives but it also bears witness to the reality that others don’t want or pretend not to see.”

The founder of Emergency is in Sudan actually working at the Salam center but is able to participate in the conference via telephone. “This center is a little jewel – he says – because it is a way to show how things work in Africa with excellent results and with even fewer resources than one would think necessary.” In other words, the model is established; “whoever wants can follow it,” invites Strada, confessing: “I find it scandalous and unacceptable that

Gino STrada

Gino STrada

civilized countries accept that only one hospital exists in Africa where one can obtain this type of care.” “10 must come to light- Strada insists.” A plea addressed in a strong and clear method in spite of being via telephone from a distance, “for Europe Nobel for Peace.”  

Letizia Pascale 

A very interesting “old” article about an amazing actor: our friend Mark!


Now Mark lives in Laguna Beach and he is working with OH!PEN on several international projects…stay tuned!

20th-Century Pox – Page 1 – Arts – Minneapolis – City Pages.

header_ohpen2.png 299110_178917765519019_2082967969_n311807_176996039044525_1334682293_n405829_220100248067437_805527474_n307166_178918315518964_1713393636_n

Minding Our Business: Building on Small Successes


Thank you Randy for this beautiful post, and…thank you Santina!

Santina Davies is in the business of rehabilitation. Her own physical rehabilitation has been her full-time occupation for six years.

Following a successful climb on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Davies slipped off Table Mountain in Capetown, South Africa, which she hiked only to take in the view. She fell 125 feet and had to be airlifted to a hospital. When she awoke 15 hours and multiple surgeries later, she was told she would never walk again.

Last week, she walked slowly and tentatively in high heels, but on her own, to the stage at the Port Theater in Corona del Mar, where she shared her story to Friendship Shelter residents and supporters on behalf of the organization’s 25th anniversary. Her appearance is a natural book-end to her first public appearance two years after the accident at the agency’s annual gala, where she received an honorary award for her spirit and tenacity.

“I still have challenges and pain,” she told a rapt crowd, “but I learned that working hard every day I need to build on each small success.”

Her message must have resonated with homeless individuals who have only small steps to take and must take each small step before they can rehabilitate their own lives. She shared the stage that night with her friend and Friendship Shelter supporter Paola Porrini-Bisson, who recently produced her first film about mountain climbers, which won the Tribeca Film Festival’s award for best short film, and Jim Doti, president of Chapman University, an avid mountain climber. Climbing mountains is an apt metaphor for homeless people trying to rebuild lives.

Davies has devoted most of her days, every day for six years to physical therapy. The task was Herculean. She had disconnected both wrists, punctured a lung, and fractured her back and spinal chord. But, she said, the moment the doctors said she would not walk again, she was determined to do just that.

Determination comes naturally to Davies. The youngest of nine children, she migrated from Italy to the U.S. at age 13 and was the first to learn to speak English, so she became the family spokesperson for her first five years here. She is a strong-minded woman who has traveled extensively and enjoyed the good life with her husband in Laguna Beach. Thus, when she became suddenly dependent on others, she wanted more than anything to do something for herself. Any small thing, she said.

“At times I wanted to give up, but something inside of me wanted to try again, and try harder. I started choosing to believe that if I can do one thing, I can do more.”

The one thing Davies always had was hope. Hope, and a dedicated support system of family and friends. This is often exactly what homeless people do not have, so a person like Davies, who has been a generous supporter, reminds them that they can do whatever they set their mind to. She also advised them to listen to their counselors.

“Only worry about what you can do today,” Davies said in conclusion, words she will likely be whispering to herself these days. She confided to the group that she has just been diagnosed with cancer. Knowing Davies, she will wage that battle with the same determination and hope. We are all rooting for her.


Randy Kraft is a freelance writer who previously covered the city for the Indy and pens the OC BookBlog for Minding our Business focuses on locally owned businesses and business people.


Minding Our Business: Building on Small Successes | Laguna Beach Independent Newspaper, The “Indy” – Laguna Beach News.