By Chiara Rambaldi
“From March 11, I, Roberto Mantovani, decided to start making a gesture of solidarity for everybody in need of a ride." says Roberto. The 50 year old taxi driver has converted his taxi into a solidarity machine that brings hot meals to the medical staff of the Italian hospitals of Bologna, where nurses and doctors work tirelessly to fight the Covid virus.
Chiara Rambaldi is based in Italy and interviewed Roberto for Powell and Barns Media.
"I work non-stop from morning to night, helping whoever calls me. I made my phone contact available on Twitter and there are a lot of calls every day." Roberto tells us.
Roberto runs this service at his own expense. He pays for the fuel, without any economic contribution, despite the numerous offers received from friends to help him cover the costs of gasoline. Roberto told Powell and Barns media.
"It will be two months without a salary, but all this makes me happy and grateful, it is my way of volunteering". He is supported by three local restaurants and adds:
"Every night during the week I work with 3 restaurants that have decided to donate 50 meals every evening to two Italian hospitals, Bellaria and Sant’Orsola hospitals of Bologna. I offered to bring the food - paid at the expenses of the restaurants and offered free of charge to the medical staff - to doctors and nurses. "
'People have donated money through social media, but Roberto donates it to charities who provide food for those without'.
The collaboration between Roberto and these restaurants originated from the emergence of the coronavirus, and from the forced lockdown that ordered every business to be closed.
“These restaurants collaborate their expenses with food suppliers, who daily bring ingredients and products to prepare hot meals to the restaurants. Then, the restaurants’ cooks prepare the meals, and I take care of the transportation part. Everything started from social media, thanks to which this solidarity collaboration was born. We try to provide medical officers with help and show them how thankful we are for what they do."
"every time I arrive at the hospital entrance, a smiling nurse welcomes me and it always takes a few minutes for them to stop thanking me. Their joy also becomes mine. "
The menu changes every day:
"we offer quality meals, with refined ingredients to try to make the fight against Covid-19 a little lighter. Tagliatelle, lasagna, tortellini, meatballs are some examples of what we prepare and give them".
At the question of what is the nicest thing that keeps this voluntary gesture going, Roberto explains:
“Definitely the gratitude showed by the people. I chose not to accept any tip or financial help through Twitter or Facebook, because volunteering means giving a free donation. Some people call several times a day, others only need occasional help, but the happiness of having made a gesture to help my fellow citizens during this difficult period is the same for everyone”.
People have donated money through social media, but Roberto donates it to charities who provide food for those without.
"People are incredulous about this, they ask me how much they have to pay for the service I do, but I keep saying that I don't want any money. Some citizens have made a fundraiser on Twitter to help me with the fuel costs, but I have decided to donate the money collected through the campaign to charities to help those who do not have food, who do not have a home. I do this as a volunteer, at no cost. "
There is only one thing that gets him down, says Roberto:
“A few weeks ago I drove a patient with Covid-19 to the nearest hospital, but he never called me back to bring him home after being hospitalized. I hope nothing serious has happened, I hope he asked someone else to take him home if he was ever discharged from the hospital. I'd like to know if he's okay, if he's alive. I hope everything will be fine”.
In addition, Roberto transports patients in and out of hospitals to help family members who cannot leave their homes due to government restrictions. Even if taxis in Italy are allowed to run if respecting the governmental safety rules, unfortunately, given that the income in this period is equal to zero, many taxi drivers no longer work.
Roberto is the only taxi driver in the Italian city of Bologna to have had this initiative, which gives some light to these dark days. He not only brings food to nurses and doctors, but he also made himself available to bring shopping bags and groceries to the elderly, to distribute Easter eggs to families, to bring essential clothing such as socks and underpants to people, but also to pick up books for students and readers.
At the end of the interview he utters, “Can I only add one more thing?” “I can’t wait for our life to be back to normal."
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