Rome's 'Geppetto' fixes broken toys for underprivileged children
ROME - Agence France-Presse
Frayed teddy bears and broken toy cars resurrect under the magic touch of Guido Pacelli, a modern-day Geppetto who works overtime so that Rome's poor and sick children wake up to a gift on Christmas morning.
Armed with a screwdriver, a microscope and a small welder, "Guido Aggiustagiocattoli," a.k.a Guido the Toy Fixer, has mended between 50 and 70 toys a day these past two months, in preparation for the festive season.
"The best present for me is when these children who have been through so much smile at me," said Pacelli, a 68-year-old retired aviation technician from Italy's flagship airline Alitalia.
Once up and running, the repaired toys are meticulously disinfected, carefully wrapped and labelled for the families.
Salvamamme (Save Mothers), which hosts Pacelli's workshop in premises lent by the Italian Red Cross, then distribute the gifts to poor, migrant or sick children.
Pacelli remembers a Caterpillar tractor he repaired for a little boy. "He called me every day until I managed to repair it," said Pacelli, a volunteer for the charity since an early retirement in 2011.
"People leave batteries in and they oxidate," he said, as he changes those of a green plastic electric guitar, extracted from a pile of soft toys, mini computers and wind-chimes for children.
Nicknamed Geppetto, the creator of Pinocchio in Carlo Collodi's novel, because of his blue overalls and glasses, Pacelli plays an essential role in the charity.
"This toy was even sent by the manufacturer because it was faulty. I've mended it and now it will go to a child in a hospital," said Pacelli.
"We distribute more than 20,000 toys a year," said Maria Grazia Passeri, head of Salvamamme which also hands out food, nappies and clothes to families with very little means. The products come from official organizations, hospitals or local parishes.
Passeri, wrapped in a red shawl, said that she founded the charity 20 years ago to help "all these women who give birth in secret or go through horrible experiences."
On distribution day at Salvamamme, mothers fill out forms and children amuse themselves amongst the piles of parcels ready to be sent and play with toys awaiting Pacelli's intervention, stacked in heaving piles.
Many former beneficiaries who manage to lift themselves out of poverty become volunteers at Salvamamme.