Solidarity education in times of COVID-19

1. Pontificial Foundation Gravissimum Educationis (FGE)

The FGE finds its natural roots in the right for all men and women to education. The dignity of that right allows all human beings to develop their personal and social vocation in a fraternal and peaceful environment. Based on these premises, men and women together with all available resources, persons and institutions at large, must also face today’s challenges and foster responsible initiatives through a new approach to education, an “outgoing education”, open to new horizons and far-reaching “peripheries”, more sensitive and closer to the essential expectations and needs of individuals and societies.

Taking into account the present situation related to the COVID-19, the FGE, in accordance with its educational mission, wishes to collaborate responsibly and concretely to help alleviate the new arising emergencies. By doing so, the Foundation also hopes to contribute and respond to the concerns recently expressed by Pope Francis regarding this pandemic: “The Lord asks and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering”. Indeed, in this time of humanity’s paschal crucifix, the Holy Father invites us “to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called… to imagine new forms of hospitality, fraternity, and solidarity”. In this respect, we can also talk about educational subsidiarity, sharing responsibility and experience, avoiding risks and optimizing resources.

Facing the present pandemic, the FGE intends to bring together its faithful collaborators (among others its international group of Ambassadors) and many other actors in a large network of supporters: educators, businesspersons and entrepreneurs in various domains, researchers, scientists, artists, bank institutions, insurance companies, other Foundations, state institutions. All men and women that have decided to pull their efforts, skills and resources to carry out direct actions inspired by solidarity education. Doing so, the FGE positions itself as a concrete and practical service to new approaches to education, so that the same becomes more and more at the service of all human beings.

2. Facing a global emergency

The Coronavirus is taking an unexpected pandemic dimension. Almost half of the population of the world is experiencing at the same time an unprecedented crisis. The medical structures of developed and undeveloped countries are struggling to organize and cater to a high number of cases urgently in need of assistance. At the same time, millions of men, women, and their families are constrained to stay home, educational, cultural and social structures are close, labour is strictly reduced to essential services and an important part of the national and international economies prove to be in big difficulties. In this context, the poorest part of our populations, either living in a precarious financial situation or oftentimes unemployed without any social protection becomes more and more vulnerable.

Without entering at this moment into considerations concerning the coming future of the great majority of our societies, we are in present times facing urgent challenges that are also posing new threats to our convictions, solidarity, as well as to our professional practices. In a creative spirit, we wish to strengthen our collaborations in order to reinforce the impact of our institutional and social commitment. In this specific scenario, the authorities of the FGE and a group of close collaborators decided to act concretely, by proposing to create a dedicated Fund to support sanitary emergencies in favour of the populations at risk or already contaminated by this illness. This initiative also intends to pay a special attention to the new challenges arising in many schools and to the poor people often indirect victims of the Coronavirus.

3. Providing sanitary materials

Together with our colleagues, we carried out a large consultation with sanitary experts and service providers in order to pinpoint some of the achievable domains in which the FGE could engage in a relatively short period. The following list indicates concrete possibilities, from basic materials, including hygiene kits and food distribution for poor populations, to more sophisticated instruments. Our contribution could extend according to the generosity of the donors.

Basic medical equipment and supplies

Masks N95 (USD 1.90 each). Eye protection (Goggles – USD 3.60 each). Protective suits (USD 25 each). Thermometer guns (USD 60 each). Test kits: Maccura (Antibody Assay kit – USD 26.50 each). Wantay kits (based on orders of 100,000 packs per type). Diagnostic kits for igM antibody to SARS-CoV-2 (ELISA) (USA 570/96T). Diagnostic kit for Total Antibody to SARSCoV-2 (ELISA) (USA 570/96T). Nucleic Acid Detection kit for detection of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) - Fluorescence Probing (USD 960/48T). Rapid Test for Detection of Total Antibodies to SARSCoV-2 (USD 6/test.

Sophisticated instruments

Beside the important lack of highly specialized hospitals and mobile firstaid stations (field hospitals and containerized units) in some countries, other sophisticated materials are always necessary: monitors, central monitoring systems, infusion pumps, echography, defibrillators, ventilators, scialytic lamps, operating tables…

These sophisticated materials are obviously more expensive than the basic equipment. We are disposed to inform any person or institution wishing to invest in those materials. The average prices amount up to 15,000 / 20,000 USD per unity, field hospitals and mobile first-aid stations apart. Given the case, the latter can also be purchased.

For the abovementioned equipment and sophisticated instruments, we have identified providers already disposed to collaborate with good financial conditions.

In addition to that, the FGE could also envisage providing financial help for the transportation and sojourning out of station for medical doctors and sanitary collaborators. If need be, especially concerning the use of these new materials, quick formations for the sanitary assistance could also be organized in cooperation with medical experts and providers.

Hygiene kits and food

At the grassroots level, the poor population is very often a victim of the consequences of the present pandemic. Sometimes living in degrading conditions (shelters) or directly in the streets (homeless persons), these people experience hunger and lack basic hygiene amenities. Many of the humanitarian structures are close and they, unfortunately, remain out of the regular assistance circles and facilities.

The present call for cooperation cannot forget these needy populations. The FGE already contacted international meal and food providers in order to explore possibilities of specific cooperation: for example, SODEXO France and COLEBRAND United Kingdom. Given the case, other providers will be invited to cooperate locally, in accordance with their availability. For the moment, it is not possible to provide our potential financial partners with a specific budget. It will be elaborated only in accordance with the funds collected and the available resources locally.

4. Beneficiaries (countries and regions)

For the attribution of the Funds, the FGE will benefit from the collaboration of an important network of contacts in a condition to provide useful and precise information about the potential beneficiaries (persons and institutions). More specifically we are in contact with the National Bishop Conferences over the world, the Apostolic Nuncios, local Bishops, well known international institutions (for example Caritas Internationalis), various Dicasteries of the Holy See, among others the Congregation for Catholic Education with its 220,000 schools and 1,760 universities in the world.

As for the beneficiaries of this project, we have also identified continents and regions where the essential materials are very insufficiently available or not existing locally. Among others, it would be of paramount necessity to face the incoming pandemic situation in some regions of Africa where most of the population remains drastically fragile and unprotected. A special attention must concern Central America and the Caribbean area (among others Haiti) and Middle East (Lebanon and Syria). Other countries or regions could also be part of our priorities; they will be identified in accordance with the evolution of the pandemic. Moreover, these priorities are not exclusive and they could take into account specific indications received from the donors themselves.

5. Administration of the Fund

The Pontifical FGE, a canonical and civil entity, is part of the Congregation for Catholic Education (Ministry of Education of the Holy See). The FGE will gather the funds that will be submitted to the rules of the administration of the Holy See. As stipulated in the Statutes, the members of the Board of Administration, the Scientific Committee and the Board of Auditors will play their respective role and will duly report to the competent authority of the Holy See. There will be a close monitoring of the provenience of the funds with respect due to the privacy of the donors.

In accordance with the priorities formulated in Point 3 of the present document, the attribution of the donations to the beneficiaries will be presented by the Secretary-General of the FGE and submitted to the final decision of the Board of Administration.

The global coordination and the follow-up of the activities will be entrusted to the personnel of the FGE: contacts with the donors, beneficiaries and other collaborative institutions, reporting to the Board of Administration and other bodies pertaining to the FGE.

An agreement between the FGE and the beneficiaries (institution or person) will be signed before the allotment of the donations. This document will describe the materials needed by the beneficiaries or the actions to be implemented. Once the operation will be completed, a copy of the receipts should be sent to the FGE together with a short description of the use of the donations.

You will find the bank information here below to contribute to the creation of the non-profit FUND:

IBAN: IT22Y0306905020100000060350
Banca: Banca Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A.
Intestatario: Amministrazione Patrimonio Sede Apostolica – Fondazione Gravissimum Educationis

6. Information to the donors

The FGE will officially report to the donors. A record of the transactions and their beneficiaries will be submitted to all of them together with a short description of the materials or actions put into place. The FGE commits itself to the total transparency of all the processes engaged in each operation of solidarity. The FGE is a non-profit organisation and would appreciate to be able to cover the fees related to this activity. In this respect, we will seek the opinion of all the financial contributors.

7. A meaningful commitment through finance

Each crisis caries with itself both a provocation and an opportunity. We must hope that the pandemic COVID-19 will help our societies to face the danger of a growing isolation and global inequality. The humankind will be compelled to make a fundamental choice. It is going to follow the path of isolation or the one of global solidarity. In this sense, the COVIS-19 is writing our future.

If we follow the path of division, the crisis could increase and most probably generates other catastrophizes in the future. If we follow the global solidarity, as strongly suggested by Pope Francis and the Great Imam of AlAzhar University, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, in Abu Dhabi (February 2019), we could probably overcome not only the Coronavirus but also other crisis that men and women will have to confront during the 21st Century.

In difficult and preoccupying times, we have the outstanding opportunity to rediscover the great potential of solidarity education and the strength of fraternity. This is the real meaning of the present commitment of the FGE and all its friends and collaborators.


Prof. Msgr. Guy-Réal Thivierge,
Secretary General,
Fondazione Gravissimum Educationis.

Vatican City, April 21st, 2020.

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