A very special white house
· Sr Goretta Favero and her Holistic Centre in Huaycán in the mountains above Lima ·
The inhabitants of Huaycán call it the “White House”. From their huts on the sandy mountains 20 kilometres from Lima, they feel consolation as they look at that large building that treats their souls and their bodies. There, in the Centro de Salud Holística Casa Naturista Anna Margottini, many of them have learned how to prevent, treat and recognize the most widespread epidemics such as those of tubercolisis, dysentery and bronchopneumonia, have discovered the benefits of a healthy diet – and the hidden dangers of the bad nutrition imposed by poverty – and have seen many miraculous physical and spiritual rebirths.
Inaugurated in 2008 in this suburb of wretchedness that sprang up in the 1980s without even the most basic toilet facilities, the holistic centre is a centre of excellence for health and an oasis of peace and hope which is attracting more and more visitors, even from far off. It is managed by Sr Goretta Favero who told us about her experience during her recent stay in Italy, her native country.
Like all great witnesses of Christ who have chosen to follow him in distant lands, Sr Goretta has always put listening before teaching, observation before demonstration, curiosity before the convenience of what is already known. And after 30 years in Peru she has a Spanish accent and her accounts of life there never fail to begin with a “we”.
From the beginning of her mission in the Andes at an altitude of 4,800 metres, Sr Goretta has been able to give herself challenges, from not only the human but also the professional viewpoint. Having left to be a nurse among the poor, she was obliged to enrich her western skills with the recipes, customs and notions of the popular Andean medicine. “When I saw that our citadel of health was the last resort for the sick after all the rituals of their tradition, I began to work beside parteras empíricas and curanderos, that is, home midwives and traditional healers who enjoy undisputed trust”. Theirs was a completely natural medicine and Sr Goretta set aside all that she had learned about painkillers and started studying that ancient and, to her, unknown science, even to the point of attending seminars on bio-health and urinotherapy in Argentina and Ecuador. She was immediately surrounded by volunteers, mainly women, who having taken health-care training courses, helped the rest of the community.
Her work has always been in close contact with families, with “her” people, both in the Andes and afterwards when in 1991 she moved to Huaycán, to a hut without electricity or running water. “Hospitals”, she explained, “were not free of charge: we opened a sort of polyclinic in the parish where, proposing the traditional remedies and at the same time working on rules of hygiene and nutrition, we obtained excellent results on the front of diseases such as tuberculosis and parasitosis, almost always caused by unhealthy living conditions”.
In a short time she opened in Huaycán 13 small pharmacies managed by the same number of women, she began to grow medicinal plants on the plot of land behind the church and she intensified the programmes of information and prevention through dozens of “health promoters”.
Thanks to this network, Huaycán was able to limit the impact of the cholera epidemic at the beginning of the 1990s and when the emergency was over Sr Goretta developed further her idea of holistic health based on the close relationship between soul, mind and body. Thus in 2005 the missionary presented the project of the holistic centre to the Peruvian-Italian Fund that provides for the conversion of the foreign debt that Lima owes Rome into social aid, and was able to make an important dream come true.
The Casa Anna Margottini was inaugurated in 2008 and today is an avantgarde structure in all fields of natural medicine, from acupuncture to reflexology, from heat therapy to holistic dentistry, from promoting a healthy diet to knowing about biodanza. Generally in the West these methods either meet with profound scepticism or are tried out at a high price only by those who can afford it.
Sr Goretta, on the contrary, has used them from the outset to treat the poor, in part because of their financial sustainability, and today, now that her clinic is famous, she uses them to treat the rich too. The contribution requested from the former is only symbolic while that requested from the latter is fundamental, especially in terms of spontaneous donations.
Among the Centre’s most appreciated activities are the monthly retreats, three days in which different and complementary activities alternate with profound benefits for the patients: breathing exercises, purification of the liver, vegetarian cooking courses, lessons on medicinal plants and psychological introspection. “But these”, Sr Goretti continued, “are basically collateral palliatives. What makes all the difference is faith. And what counts is the acceptance that people receive here: a solidarity and an attention that can generate new vital fluxes that can overcome the blocks of energy, emotional and spiritual, that are behind every illness. Despite the advance of individualism, people here still live with a community spirit. Poverty and the serious daily difficulties urge us to seek each other’s help and this is our salvation. Positive thoughts are more powerful than medicine and feeling that one is loved and given consideration heals!”.
Although it is fascinated by this testimony the Western mindset does not easily overcome its own scepticism. There is illness and illness: how far can Sr Goretta’s treatments go? “Twelve years ago”, she told us, “a woman arrived with three metastases in her brain. A single mother with too many children to feed, she was desperate. We helped and supported her not only with natural medicine remedies but with real friendship, taking care of her children every day and relieving her from every chore. She is now reborn and today, in a virtuous circle, of which I have often been part, she infects a large number of our patients with hope. She is a valuable witness”.
Precisely thanks to the spirit of brotherhood that courses through Huaycán and flows into the White House, in recent years numerous social initiatives have multiplied here which, at a close look, are a consequence of the holistic care of and attention to the human being. Many of these projects are funded by the Fondazione Solidarietà of the Republic of San Marino – from the nursery school to the sewing course that serves to introduce young people to a profession – and the most important is the family house in which 13 little girls have been taken in, orphans or children who have been removed from deprived environments. In the afternoon they join their peers for activities in the after-school space, a vital service for the entire neighbourhood. Lastly, on Sundays, the Compartir Group meets at Casa Anna Margottini. This is a community of people with mental disabilities who, alone or with a few relatives, meet for lunch and for a moment of festivity and sharing.
The volunteers who arrive at the Centre to give a hand are ever more numerous; “it doesn’t matter if they have no special skills, Sr Goretta explained, “their wish to be there and to smile at those who arrive already means a great deal”. Here it is the small gestures, day after day, which make all the difference. For this reason instead of calling the clinic after some well-known saint, Sr Goretta decided to dedicate it to a woman of the people who always lived by faith and service to her neighbour: an example of daily holiness who, “like so many of our women, never complained and was always ready with a smile”.
Sr Goretta Favero Miotti was born in Padua in 1952. She left Italy in 1980 to be a missionary in Peru, after obtaining a diploma as a professional nurse and health-care assistant. She spent 10 years in the Andes and since 1991 has lived at Huaycán, a southern suburb of Lima. From 2008 she has managed the Centro de Salud Holística Casa Naturista Anna Margottini, which also promotes numerous social initiatives.
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