“Porgi un Sorriso”, an invitation to smile that becomes action

We meet Thomas Molendini, a financial professional with a strong humanitarian passion and a fortitude that led him to create and develop humanitarian projects in Italy and many other countries.

Thomas, could you tell us about your story?

Many years ago, I used to think that taking care of people in need could benefit one’s personal and professional reputation, open gateways for me and help me find contacts that shared my ideals.

My first-hand encounter with pain, however, changed my perspective, and made me realize what help actually means, which opened up my mind and radically changed my approach.

Your aid projects start from children in need.

I am a protective, loving father, and seeing children struggle always makes my heart sink. The project “Porgi un Sorriso” was born of my encounter with a seriously ill child, when I took action to ensure that he received suitable treatment and could adequately recover.

In the past few years, thanks to the support from friends and colleagues who share my ideals and help me reach my humanitarian goals, I was able to activate many initiatives that allowed children in need to smile, even if just for a moment.

We donated an Easter egg, Christmas stockings, and tablets to hospitalized children, and most of all we took care of seriously ill children who would have had little survival chances in their countries of origin.

Is this why you have been active for over 15 years in countries like Romania?

There are very complex situations in group homes, care homes for the elderly, and orphanages.

There are no government incentives to face healthcare needs, and what is available is barely enough for daily livelihoods. With our actions, we have provided support and made more funds available.

We also helped a child from a group home who suffered from a serious heart condition for which no treatment was apparently available.

We managed to overcome bureaucratic obstacles and bring him to Taormina, where he had surgery, and he is well now.

Our help was appreciated, especially by the director of Master Chef Romania, who decided to prepare a Christmas lunch for children of a group home.

You’ve been very active in war zones too, like Syria, and you have taken actions in Egypt and Moldova. Could you tell us about some of your projects there?

When the war broke out in Syria, we sent 3 trailer trucks with primary goods.

Driven by the need to act and actively bring help, we donated an ambulance and took it directly to Aleppo in order to helps transferring the wounded.

In Egypt, we collaborated with the “Bambini di Strada” association in Cairo, setting out every night to bring food and drinks to the many street children living in extreme poverty.

We have carried on several projects in Moldova, which have also been supported by the President of the Republic.

A case that I hold especially dear is Matteo’s, a 15-month-old child who had been found incurable at several local healthcare institutions. After a long bureaucratic process, we managed to have him hospitalized in Catania, where he was treated. Now he is well. Intense emotions that make your heart smile.

The President of the Republic of Moldova, together with the football association, were our partners and sponsors in organizing a tournament for 500 children aged 12 to 15.

Winners received the President’s Cup from the President itself, and we gave the top three ranked  teams financial contributions that was used to purchase primary goods.

Sport always has an important role in bringing joy and creating cohesion, it is a moment of abstraction that distracts from daily life and teaches team work, respect and mutual trust. Fundamental values that are also the roots of my charity project.

Porgi un Sorriso was also very active during the Covid-19 lockdown. How did you take action?

We supported families that had lost jobs and had no more income because of the Covid emergency. For example, we helped fifty families living in hardships in Monte Sant’Angelo by giving them primary goods, especially for children.

We donated 5000 masks to churches so that they could give them for free to those who needed them but could not afford to buy them, we donated Covid tests to the Young Lawyer Association in Foggia, and helped thirty families from Trieste by providing them with food and school supplies for children and young boys and girls.

You have also been active in a beautiful project supporting the onco-hematological pediatric ward of the SS. Annunziata hospital in Taranto.

We also collaborated to the project “IE JESCHE PACCE PE TE!!!” with a fundraising campaign that allowed us to carry on important interventions for the hospital ward.

You’ve been on the first line in Milan too, helping the City Angels association to provide the homeless with water and food. While I listened to your story, I was struck by the many diverse actions that you undertake to help, small but carefully considered.

Porgi un Sorriso carefully selects how to do charity. This approach allows us not just to help families and children in need, but also to follow up with them in time. The message we spread is that our commitment is real and never ends, as we are certain that even the smallest actions can actually help those who are fragile or struggling.

Emanuela Zini
My professional life has been marked by several big changes that made me grow as a person and as a leader, develop new skills and mental flexibility, which in turn allows me to face challenges from a different, unique perspective. To me, writing represent a way to communicate with myself and with others. Telling stories and engaging my readers are the challenges that I am currently facing within a wider editorial project.

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